The bully on the playground (and other places) – Part 3

How does one resist a bully?  Assuming that the bully is not a “professional bully” as described in the previous post, there are several things you can do.

First, develop a thick skin and don’t be too quick to take up an offense.  Often the bully is not worth your time, and if you can simply ignore them then this may be the thing to do.  Of course, you are entitled to stand up for yourself if you wish, and at times it may be the appropriate thing to do. 

Don’t show weakness.  That will encourage the bully.  If you’re confident in yourself show it.  You may want to act naive and show surprise that the bully would say or do such a thing.  Sometimes it works to say the bully that what they’re saying or doing is “weird.”  No one likes their behavior to be described that way.  However, don’t be overly aggressive in return.  Your goal is not to escalate things, but to diffuse them.

Gather allies if you need to.  Don’t let a bully isolate you.  Pull someone over to join you or get your friends to speak up if they are present.  Prep them in advance if an encounter is predictable at a business meeting or family event.  In the children’s books about bullying that I read this was a favorite strategy.  A child being bullied would get friends to plot together to embarrass the bully, and the bully would retreat rapidly.  After all, the goal for the bully is to get rid of shame, not increase it.

A very different tact can be to be nice to a bully at a later time, but not in a way that suggests that you are cowering.  If a bully is in a vulnerable position at some point, show him you’re not in a power struggle with him by giving him a compliment.  If you’re good at math and he isn’t, and he gets a hard problem right, give him a compliment with confidence.  He’s hungry for a friend actually, and if you’re “big” enough to not get defensive you may actually win a friend, or at least quiet him.  He won’t expect such paradoxical behavior from you.  Again, this isn’t likely to work with a bully that is hardened and unreachable, but you never know, it can be worth a try in some situations.

Remember, whatever the bully does is about them, not you.  We all have weaknesses that others try to exploit from time to time.  Know your strengths as a person and use them in life both to stand up for yourself and make friends with others.

One last repeat reminder…if confronted by a “professional bully” do not engage.  Leave.  It could turn into a costly situation that you will regret.  When unsure the best behavior is to be safe rather than sorry.

Bully Rule #3:  Be smart in your response to bullies.  Know and use your strengths and your allies as needed, and avoid escalation of an unpleasant (or potentially dangerous) situation.  Consider a paradoxical response…surprise the bully with something he does not expect.  It could be a bold move to call some friends over to join you or simply acting as if their move is rather odd and puzzling and moving on, not giving them much time or attention.

This is a big topic and I would encourage you to read elsewhere about addressing bullies.  Consider these ideas just a start in what you might need to know to be effective—they are not meant to be exhaustive.

Good luck!


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