I can’t begin to tell you how many Pink Shirt Day/Anti bullying assemblies I have spoken at over the years. How many inclusive workplace initiatives I have sat through.
And I hate to say it, but if assemblies and initiatives dedicated to stop bullying was going to solve anything it would have already. I do see the benefit in giving an opportunity for people to share their stories of overcoming hatred to create empathy in the hearts of the hearers.
But what isn’t working is this: Standing up against a bully or telling them to STOP. How does someone turn into a bully? Are they just born like that?
No one woke up into our world wanting to be a jerk. Environments CREATE bullies through trauma and being bullied or mistreated. Their walls are thick and they don’t trust for a reason. There are two things we can do today that can end bullying that will actually WORK. They are…
Bring them CLOSER by seeing past their outward behaviour
Behaviour is communication. When someone bullies or mistreats someone else it means there is a whole lotta hurt underneath. We all have one basic need, and that is to be understood. When we aren’t understood we become all kinds of ugly. We become our worst. Bullies have been misunderstood and pushed away numerous times. It’s what they expect. What they don’t expect is kindness. What they don’t expect is for you to see past their outside and call out the gold inside of them.
I remember teaching a grade 5 class where we formed a circle to play a game my company calls “I See You”. When someone enters the circle, everyone calls out the great things they see in that person. This particular time a boy went into the middle whom everyone described as “the bully”. It was a little uncomfortable as no one seemed to be able to say anything nice about this boy – not even the teacher who said out loud, “Yes he is a bully”. How on earth is he supposed to become anything different when the social bar is set for him?! In order for anyone to have the potential for change, environments need to provide the support for positive change.
Many of you have heard our family’s story of my son’s rages. Even just last week he threatened my life. What was underneath his threats and rage was fear and shame. I didn’t send him away, I saw past the outer threats and brought him close. I’m glad I did because he is a whole different kid this week. If I would have labelled him dangerous, rebellious, trouble, or even a bully there would be no change this week. He needed myself, my husband, and his teachers at school to come around him to say, “We SEE you. We’re here and we’re not giving up on you.
First step to stop the bully: see the good inside of them and pull it out.
This means showing up consistently in their life every day for the long haul because they won’t trust you at all at first. They may even have colorful words for you. They may even go overboard with attempting to hurt your feelings because they are EXPECTING rejection so they dish it out before anyone can give it to them.
We have a culture that knows how to express hurt, now we must learn how to bring hurting people closer in order to see real change.
Bring them closer by having firm but kind boundaries
Too many believe “bringing them closer” means putting up with abuse or mistreatment. Nothing could be further from the truth. Bullies are able to behave the way they do because we don’t know how to respectfully draw the line in the sand about how we are to be treated. I would dare say the bullies aren’t the problem, it’s our lack of knowing how to implement proper boundaries. Children need adults who know how to have healthy boundaries to teach them how to do the same. The problem is that most adults don’t know how to implement boundaries.
Boundaries are about controlling the only person you can control – you. Boundaries teach others how to treat you, and only you are responsible for this. If someone is bullying you, stop blaming them and own the fact that this is a problem only you can solve for yourself. Stop posting on social media about your mistreatment and take control of yourself.
Boundaries are crucial in human relationships and takes an enormous sense of self ownership. If a bully is mistreating you, the first thing you need to do is decide what you will do in response, not what they should do.
“You can’t treat me like that.”
Well actually they can if you let them.
A person with boundaries tells the other person what they will do in response to others choices. For example, “If you treat me like that, I will..
- walk away
- choose to find another partner for the project
- file a complaint
- (fill in the blank)
You need to decide what your plan of action is and then follow through without having to talk a bunch of smack while you do it. For example,
“If you do that again, I’m going to walk away. See me walking? Ya, that’s what you get for being a downright self centred jerk”…. and on and on we go. Keep your sentence short, follow through without any need for explanation. You become powerless with too many words and only add to the problem.
If we can learn how to bring hurting people closer and have firm but kind boundaries rather than pushing them away, ostracizing them, and calling them out, we will create spaces at home, work, and school where we may just see bullies transform into who they really are.
Which is no bully.
I’m excited to announce that my book, Bring Them Closer will be released THIS APRIL! Preorder the book now.