Tips for Tackling Bullying’ by Robert Higgs
Robert Higgs is an author and professional speaker on bullying and has visited the pupils at Burgoyne Middle School. He gives Anti-Bullying Presentations and Resources to schools and educational settings throughout the UK and has kindly provided us with the following information. Visit www.roberthiggs.co.uk for further information.
All schools and educational settings have a legal duty to establish policies and procedures for preventing and responding to incidents of bullying, but the attitude and strategies a young person can use to help themselves are often overlooked. As a former ‘victim’ of bullying at school, I can say with confidence that the following tips will be instrumental in allowing you to resolve any issues with bullying in your life.
It is easier to deny a problem involving bullying than it is to confront and resolve it, but avoidance strategies like denial place you in the weak position of it being someone else’s decision if or when to stop bullying you. Taking responsibility for resolving the situation is empowering. This approach is not about self-blame – you are not to blame for the bullying and should not allow yourself to feel deserving of it. Taking responsibility for seeking support and guidance from others to ensure the bullying stops will often bring a speedy resolution.
Allow yourself to feel angry
Bullying is very frightening and distressing and it is tempting to bottle up your emotions to prevent anyone seeing how much pain you are in. People often accept bullying until they become so angry they damage themselves or others because they have denied their emotions about the situation for so long. You should feel angry if you are being bullied - all bullying is abuse and is wrong. Writing or talking about how you actually feel are healthy ways to release these emotions. Allow yourself to feel angry. Connect to that feeling and use it as leverage to report the bullying and seek sources of help.
Speak out immediately
The longer bullying endures the more accepting a ‘bully’ and ‘victim’ become of their roles in the situation. Bullying becomes normal and everyday and a bullying situation that gathers momentum becomes increasingly difficult to stop. Follow your school or college procedures and speak out immediately. Tell someone you trust what is happening. People always fear that speaking out will bring greater consequence, but ‘victim’s’ must be brave. The real danger of bullying is not the imagined consequences of telling, but the psychological and emotional damage it can do to the person that refuses to speak out. Bullying can destroy people. Telling someone NOW could save your life. It will certainly be healthier in the long term Many schools and colleges have peer mentoring and counselling services that will help. You can also speak to someone confidentially and anonymously. The Anti-Bullying charity ‘Beatbullying’ has designed a Cyber-mentoring website for young people at Beatbullying. Click on the link below to go straight to their web site.
De-personalize the situation
People bully for many reasons: boredom, jealousy, approval, insecurity, fear, displacement of anger, low self-esteem and lack of confidence to name a few. Do not make a bully’s problems your own by blaming yourself or feeling deserving and worthless. Never internalise the things bullies say about you or accept them as truth.
Bullying is about reactions. Bullies say and do things with the intention of making others feel so bad they create a negative image of themselves. Understand that bullying is a game and the bullies success depends entirely upon your reaction to what they say and do. If you respond passively to bullying – refusing eye contact, not answering back, showing fear, distress or upset, or if you respond aggressively – lashing out verbally or physically, the bullies will have achieved their aim. Bullies rely upon the emotional impact of their words and actions. Learning to respond assertively – using eye contact when you speak or answer back, staying calm, refusing to get angry or upset makes it far more difficult for a bully to ‘play the game’ and get the reaction they want. Take nothing a bully says personally. Bullies are very good at discovering the names people do not like being called, but everything they say is a reflection of them, not you. To deal with verbal bullying, write down some insults and think up some answers to each one, then roleplay them with friends or family at home. Sample answers might include: ‘Thankyou,’ ‘you could be right,’ ‘I don’t mind,’ ‘I don’t care,’ ‘thanks for the opinion.’ As you get better at the skill, begin working with any names that you do not like being called. Practise answering back to these names and the words will lose their power. You will become desensitised to their impact and develop great resilience. Anti-Bullying charity ‘Kidscape’ calls this technique ‘fogging’ and they run Zap assertiveness courses for young people at Kidscape. Click on the link below to go straight to their web site.
Identify and Confront your Fears
Fear prevents people from asserting themselves in bullying situations. Identifying the root of your fear and then confronting it will massively build your confidence. Take a sheet of paper and a pen and write down all the things you fear happening in a bullying situation. This will help you locate the cause of the fear that is preventing action. Then set a series of challenges with the goal of confronting your fear until you are able to control it and assert yourself. For example, if you have a fear of defending yourself physically, take steps to learn to do this by joining a self-defence class, a boxing club or a martial art. The training itself will place you in controlled situations where you will feel your fear and learn to control it. A good class and instructor will allow you to do this in gradual steps. If you have a fear of speaking up for yourself, then taking steps to join a drama group or perform in a play can be a great confidence builder. The nerves and fear you feel before going onstage for a live performance replicate the emotions you feel in a bullying situation. Performing despite these feelings will allow you to develop control over yourself when you need to speak up. Facing fear is the fastrack to gaining confidence. Confronting your fears allows you to develop mastery over them, you become a braver person and bullies and the threat they once posed will seem insignificant to you.
Self-esteem or the value you place upon yourself is the most important quality to develop. When self-esteem is low you can attract situations and people that reinforce that low opinion. When self-esteem is high, you attract situations and people that make you feel good and reflect that higher value. Confronting your fears and succeeding at challenges will give you a strong feeling of achievement. Self-esteem cannot be given to you by another person, but it can be earned by achievement and by doing things that make you feel good about yourself. When you feel good about yourself, you make it extremely hard for a bully to take away that feeling. Make developing confidence and self-esteem a long term, lifelong strategy and both qualities will continually grow and allow you to be successful and happy.
Be your own best friend
A bully’s insults can become a person’s view of themselves when the bullying is not challenged. Your self-image comes from your thoughts. If you have a negative self-image it is because you have been thinking negative thoughts about yourself. Often these thoughts are inspired by the words of bullies and it is imperative that you challenge them. You can do this by becoming aware of and tuning into your ‘inner voice.’ Every person has an inner voice. This is the voice we hear in our head’s that is continually talking to us and voicing our thoughts. Here are two exercises you can use to train this voice to be positive and develop a positive self-image:
- Find a quiet room and sit in silence for two minutes. Daydream and allow your mind to wander. After this time, reflect on the exercise. During the silence you will have noticed a voice in your head speaking to you, reminding you of things, reflecting your thoughts. This is your ‘inner voice.’
- Take a pen and paper and draw the outline of a person. Then brainstorm words that describe your thoughts about yourself for one minute. Analyse the words you have written. If any of the words are negative, or nasty and make you feel bad about yourself, ask yourself where these words have come from. Often they come from your thoughts in response to any bullying you have experienced and the hurt that this has caused. Develop a healthy and strong self-image by replacing these negative words or thoughts with positives.
- Begin listening to and noticing your thoughts. Tune into them by paying attention to the ‘inner voice.’ Everytime the ‘inner voice’ says something negative say the word STOP aloud in your head. The ‘inner voice’ responds to your commands and will stop when you tell it to. When the ‘inner voice’ has stopped, re-phrase the negative thought or words with something positive, for example, transform the thought ‘I’m useless at this’ – by saying STOP – then ‘This isn’t my best subject but I’m trying hard and I’m getting better.
You can trace the damage that bullying causes people from loss of confidence and self-esteem to destructive behaviour to this simple truth:
Bullying is designed to make people feel bad about themselves, but your thoughts are responsible for how you feel about yourself. And you are in control of those thoughts. Therefore no person can bully you and make you feel bad about who you are unless your thoughts allow them to do this.
Training your ‘inner voice’ to be encouraging and positive is the single most effective technique you will learn in terms of developing confidence, succeeding in life and preventing yourself from the damage that bullying can do.
People sometimes struggle to move on and leave their bullying experiences behind because they refuse to let go of the hurt and anger they feel at having been bullied. People often dream of taking revenge on their bullies or live their lives waiting for a bully to apologise to them.
Re-framing the situation to take the positives from it can help you move on.
Bullying is weak behaviour and an ugly trait of human nature, but it is remarkably commonplace. Do not feel self-pity for the fact that you have been bullied. Feel sorry for the bullies. Allow yourself to see how weak their behaviour was and forgive them for it.
People often belittle themselves for what they perceive as their ‘weakness’ for having been bullied.
Congratulate yourself for surviving and overcoming bullying instead. If you have followed the tips above, the person you were when you were bullied will not be the person you are NOW. You will have grown in confidence and placed a higher value on yourself. You will be positive and encouraging of yourself. You will understand bullying and it’s nature and with this knowledge it is unlikely that you will allow it to happen again.
Keep Moving On!
Learn everything you can from your experience and apply this knowledge. Set goals for the things you want to achieve and focus without distraction on these. Find a purpose in life and live bravely.