Bullying is a topic that arises time and again in the media. Generally related to children, more recently the media has been looking at bullying in the workplace. Bullying is characterised in many ways. It can take the form of: name calling, hitting, spreading rumours, excluding people, turning someone’s friends against them and can occur either in person, or via abusive messages through text or online (BBC, 2013).
I was bullied growing up for six years during school. Throughout this time I was told over and over, it is OK, it will not last forever, once you leave school it will be over and you will never have to experience or see it again. This, however, is not true. Not only do the effects of being bullied follow you, but so do the bullies! Even now in postgraduate study I experience bullying from a group of individuals. While it is not outright physical or open verbal harm, it is the jibes and gossip that is maliciously spread that cause the harm. Even after I and another of my friends attempted to bury the hatchet and sort the whole mess out, it was viciously thrown back in our faces and twisted and turned to place not only myself, but also my friend in the worst possible light.
But what is my point here. My point is that while it is a select few doing the direct harms, those who stand by and watch, do nothing, or even spread the gossip and problems further are bullying as well. On this logic, I myself have become a bully. By not addressing the situation, and by taking the ‘ignore it and it will go away’ attitude they have only continued their behaviours and started using them against people that they don’t even know. One poor person who happened to interact with the group has been labelled as being a stalker and a running joke has been made out of them for, in all honesty, just attempting to be kind.
But what can be done when face with people like this. Action wise, it seems very little. I could actively go and address them in person, calling them out on their behaviour. But what would that achieve? Nothing more than potentially justifying, in their minds at least, their reasons for behaving the way that they do and also opening myself up for more abuse in the long run. What surprises me the most is that in school and the workplace there are crafted safety nets that can help support when situations of bullying occur. Yet at the University level, there seems to be very little publicised support in place to protect any students that are a victim of bullying. There is written guidelines and advice for the working academics, but little or nothing for students. One argument could be ‘so why do the students not set up an anti-bullying scheme?’.. There is no definitive answer that I can provide to that question, however I can give many potential answers such as: difficulty in gaining funding, difficulty in gaining interest in the scheme, difficulty in having people report any potential bullying and, difficulty as a student gaining power to be able to do anything in order to prevent bullying.
So what is there to be done? In my opinion, there is little that can be done to change the way that the people in question behave, but there is plenty that I can do to change the way that I feel. Here are my pointers that, from my experience, feel help:
- Ignore what they say about you – if you rise to any bait that they provide you, that is giving them exactly what they want, a reaction. While I did say that my inaction was a problem in that it did not stop their behaviour, at the same time it did not escalate it either. People bully generally because they feel the need to put you down most likely because they are jealous of either who you are or what you have. I know it sounds clichéd, but from my experience it is true!
- Do not waste energy worrying about the bullies – this is one of the mistakes that I have made, spending months worrying about why I am being targeted, why they were making up the gossip, why they felt the need to behave as they did. At the end of the day it was wasted energy. Chances are I will never find out the true reason for why they are doing what they do. In fact I know that I won’t as the ring leader of the group has provided a different answer to every person who has asked them why they have a problem and why they have behaved the way that they do towards me, and chances are, again, that none of these answers were true either. Ironically, even here, I am again wasting energy on events and things that will continue to happen until I finish this course of study.
- Do not abandon others who are being bullied – Everyone is guilty of this at some time or another, myself included. If you have been bullied, then you know that there is nothing that can be more humiliating and isolating that being bullied. I am not saying that you must go up and attack the bullies at the time, but even if you go to the person after the event, talk to them and tell them that you think what happened is wrong, then that is something rather than nothing. It is a feeling that you are not alone, standing on the edge of a parapet with no one there to stop you from falling.
- Feel sorry for the bullies – It may sound strange but it is true. I initially felt anger and sadness that I was being subjected to targeted malicious behaviours. But now I feel sympathy for them. Why is it that they have such low self-esteem that they feel the need to bully and vilify in order to make themselves feel better and good about themselves, which clearly does not seem to be working as they have continued to behave in the same manner!
- Take the positives out of the negatives – a hard one to do, but it is possible. In my circumstance I can take the positive that these individuals feel that I am worth the time and effort to pick on, therefore there must be some defining quality or feature that stands out or is unique to me.Furthermore, this experience has shown me who my true friends are. They are, in my mind, the ones who listened when I needed it and provided the support that I needed to keep from falling down.
Finally, the most important, and possibly the most routinely cited point:
YOU ARE NOT ALONE IN YOUR EXPERIENCES – IT CAN GET BETTER
For me, personally, I think the best way for the situation to get better is to start with those who are being bullied. I do not advocate changing yourself, but I do advocate changing your thinking. Do not blame yourself, do not let the bullies get to you (easier said than done I know, but it can be done!), do not become a bully yourself – dishing back out what they serve to you does make you a bully, and finally – do make sure that you try to find some positives within the negatives. Negatives are what bullies thrive on, so why allow them that satisfaction by focusing on the negatives yourself?
BBC (2013) Are You Being Bullied, <http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio1/advice/factfile_az/bullying_are_you_being_bullied> (03 May 2013)