Following last week’s article, ‘7 Reasons Why Bullies Bully‘, I had such an overwhelming response from so many of you, that there can be no doubt that this is a huge issue for so many of us.
In the post, I promised that this week I would give you twelve simple sentences to disarm a bully without being antagonistic.
The aim with these comments is to de-escalate the bully, not to provoke them, as the latter can often make things much worse.
Bullying is not personal (although it feels like it is!)
It can be tough to manage bullies with empathy, especially when their apparent unhappiness is directed at you. However, remembering that something has happened to them to make them this way can help you approach the issue with a certain level of empathy.
If you’ve read my previous post, you’ll know that although their behaviour feels incredibly personal, it really isn’t! As I discussed, bullying has nothing to do with the victim. It has EVERYTHING to do with the bully. Undoubtedly, they will be acting out of fear and insecurity, for example:
- Fear of loss
- Fear of being hurt
- Fear that they aren’t good enough
- Fear of being shamed
- Fear of being found out (imposter syndrome)
- Fear of failure
- Fear of judgement
In addition, they may be reenacting the behaviours they witnessed as a child from a bullying parent who was abusive to them or others inside or outside of the family home.
I’ve talked a lot about the impact our childhood programming has on our adult lives in previous articles. It’s incredibly powerful, and unless we are consciously aware of our conditioning and, most importantly, the bits that aren’t working for us, we will continue to repeat those same behaviours into adulthood.
Not only that, we’ll likely pass them on to our children – this is referred to ‘generational programming/conditioning’. As children, what goes on in our family home is normal to us – even if our ‘normal’ is abuse.
Disarming a Bully
The following examples can be used to disarm both adult and child bullies, so if a young relative/friend is experiencing bullying at school, it may be helpful to share these with them, too – as well as explain the seven reasons why bullies bully.
- I’m very sorry for whoever hurt you.
- I’m sorry that you got hurt; it isn’t me who makes you feel small.
- Does it make you feel bigger or just more accepted by people when you do this/talk to me like this?
- Whoever hurt you, I promise, it wasn’t me. We all have a lot going on; I guess some of us bring it into work/school/home, and some don’t.
- What’s going on with you that turned you into this person? I know you’re a lot nicer than this.
- No one’s going to be hurt if you’re nice. Are you worried you will be hurt if you’re nice to people?
- Am I the first person today that you did this to?
- I can promise you that people will still like you if you act normally.
- Did your parents teach you this, or is there someone who hurt you?
- I don’t know who hurt you to make you act like this, but I promise you, it wasn’t me.
- You don’t seem to be the type of person who would lose control so easily. Is something wrong?
- You don’t seem the type to hurt people for no reason. Is there something going on?
(Disclaimer Alert! Not every comeback will be suitable for all situations. You know your bully, so choose the ones that you think will work given your particular circumstances. You use this information at your own risk!)
Using these types of statements, we can help the other person save face and bring what they’re doing into the light, hopefully without escalating the problem. I know that with most victims, there’s a huge urge to make the bully feel small (and I’ve definitely felt that need in the past), but as soon as you do that, you become the bully.
Of course, HOW we deliver the comeback is of vital importance too. As you know, the same words can mean very different things depending on how we say them. For example, think of how you felt when your mum shouted your name when you were a child – you knew without seeing her exactly what mood she was in just by the way she said one word.
As this is such an important topic, I’ll talk more about bullying and toxic work environments in upcoming posts. Until then, please leave any comments below or email me with your thoughts at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If there are any topics that you’d like me to cover in upcoming articles, I’d love to hear from you. Please feel free to contact me a email@example.com.