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Tips and strategies for managing bullying

Bullying and other kinds of violence happen more often than we would like. Even bullies aren’t free from bullying. Bullying changes how people treat them (it’s hard to keep friends when you’re practicing hurting people) and they’ve often been bullied at some point to learn the behaviour. Here’s a quick list of strategies to manage bullies in your life.

1) Talk To Someone: First and foremost, reaching out for help is key to gaining the confidence and support to manage bullies. That doesn’t always mean that you’ll be able hide behind someone to avoid the bully. The benefit of connecting with someone is getting to tell the how you feel; how it’s impacting you; and to strategize with some support. After all, most of the strategies, including this one, require some practice to get better and someone around to coach you is important. More importantly, they can remind you that it’s not your fault and that you’re not alone.


2) First Impressions: First impressions aren’t everything, but they are important. Sometimes, how we behave or carry ourselves might catch a bully's attention. It's still not your fault. But it might be good to develop some habits that avoid bullies in the first place (if you can). “I didn’t even do anything!” may be the first thing you think. It’s true, it’s not your fault, remember? At the same time, it can be good to think about our posture, how we interact with others and how we react to situations since it really shapes how people see us. There are great things about everyone, even if it's hard to remember it when we're feeling down or critical of ourselves. Bullies pick up of those signs that we're not at our best, that we're not feeling powerful. So think about what makes you awesome and focus on those things to build up your confidence and power.


3) Actions/Reactions: One of the most important things when being bullied is knowing how to react. Simply put, bullies do what they do to try and get a specific kind of reaction from you. Fear, aggression, and defensiveness play right into the bully’s hands. For example:

  • Sam: [in an angry and critical voice] You look so stupid.

  • Ash (defensive): No I don't;

  • Ash (aggressive): Not as stupid as yours!

  • Ash (fearful): *says nothing*

Any of these responses let a bully know they can get a reaction and attention from you. It can be hard not to be upset or angry by these kinds of 'baiting' tactics. But 'baiting' tactics are just that - they are trying to 'bait' you into doing what they want. So don't do what they want. Walk away if you can. Smile without saying a word. The less reaction you give them, the harder they will try to get a reaction or they will give up. If they try harder, then you want to keep yourself safe. And then tell someone and ask for help when you're able. But if they give up, you know it's a strategy that will work next time to shut them down (if there is a next time).


4) Confuse Them With Kindness: What else could we say in such a situation? Kindness and humor are not obvious solutions but that may actually work out as an advantage. There is only a small number of people that really enjoy hurting people. For the most part, people want to be liked by others and want to be around people that they like. Because of that, bullies are most likely hurt in some way and looking for a way to direct their own anger and frustration. Reacting with kindness or humor not only protects you from feeling awful but it also tends to take the wind right out of the bully’s sails. Let’s use the example above:

  • Sam: [in an angry and critical voice] You look so stupid.

  • Ash (Kindness): I do look stupid sometimes, what do you do to look so cool?

  • Ash (Kindness): You seem upset, is everything okay?

  • Ash (Humour): You should see me when I try to do a math test (puts on a silly face).

The bully might respond in another mean way or, more likely, not respond at all. That doesn’t mean it didn’t work. Kindness and humour in response to aggression is confusing. Remember, if we want bullying to stop, it might take some time. Keep at it and practice.


This is also a technique that might be hard to do till you feel mentally ready. That's ok. Take care of your mental well being first. You need to be calm and not bothered by their words and that can be really hard to do.


5) Boundaries: remember that these strategies won’t work as well of you’re already feeling scared and intimidated. The first step is to reach out for help. “I don’t feel safe here” is a clear message that can start a conversation. Finding your voice again will be important to start gaining the confidence to tell people how you want to be treated (through your body language and your reactions). If someone is hitting you or otherwise causing you pain, know that assault is a crime. These strategies are to stop it from getting to that point but if it’s already at that point, report it.


And not every strategy will work 100% of the time. It is about practicing, trial and error, and most importantly, asking for help when you need it. Don't suffer in silence or think you just 'need to deal'. It's okay to ask for help with problems that overwhelm you or you can't find a healthy solution yourself.

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