1. People & Relationships

Are You a Part of the Bullying Problem?

Do You Help Bullies Bully?


Bullies come in all shapes and sizes, are of all ages and races, and exist in all socio-economic groups. We encounter bullies at all stages in our lives from childhood to adulthood. In the book Why Me?, Rita Toews explains how bullies evolve, who they are, and how teens can cope.

Who Becomes a Bully?

Contrary to popular rhetoric bullies are not usually abused at home and rarely suffer from low self esteem. Bullies have a superior sense of self, they are highly confident in their abilities and they opt to assert themselves and their position in the social order with force or harassment.

Bullies feel in control when they intimidate others and they feel admired by peers when they act out. It is not so much the victim that gives a bully his or her sense of power, it is the reactions, or rather the inactions, of bystanders that feed the bully’s superior sense of self.

What to You Do When You See Bullying

Your answer to this question illustrates the importance of peer reaction to the psyche of a bully. If you are like the average person you neither encourage nor act to stop bullying when you see it happening.

A small percentage of people will jump in and join the bullying or will cheer the bully on. An even smaller percentage of people will actively get involved to stop the bullying. But the most common response people have when they see bullying is to do nothing.

Inaction is like adding fuel to the bullying fire. A bully likes an audience because the bully can control those who watch by creating the fear that they could be next. The people who join in with a bully may seem to be offering a bully the most positive reinforcement but in reality it is the vast majority of people who do nothing that keep that bully bullying.

How Bullies Get Away With It

We live in a moral society in which our laws teach and enforce a specific moral code. It is not acceptable in general society to hurt people, it is not acceptable to harass them and it is not acceptable to slander people. Yet this is exactly what bullies do everyday.

In society at large these things are crimes but in closed social groups, like those we find at school, these things are often accepted as problematic but sadly inevitable. This complacency is what gives bullying its staying power.

Many people fear that if they step in to stop a bully they will become a target and there is some validity to this fear. Bullies do not like being confronted. Bullies are about power and control and confronting them or stepping in to stop them usurps their sense of power. However, when one person stands up to a bully it galvanizes other apathetic bystanders and they often jump in to action in support of the person confronting the bully.

How Doing Nothing Does Harm

Most people do not genuinely like bullies. They do not like witnessing another person being bullied. It is a very uncomfortable psychological state, a state known as cognitive dissonance, to witness a bullying incident and do nothing about it.

Cognitive dissonance occurs when our actions do not match our internal code of ethics and morality; it is triggered when we don’t act in accordance with our internal moral code.

Most people want to stop a bully but lack the courage to get involved for fear of becoming a target. When somebody else makes the first move others are likely to follow to alleviate their dissonance. Bullies always back down when more than one person confronts them.

Standing Up to a Bully

There are many very effective ways to stop a bully without drawing their fire. If you stand by and do nothing when you see a bully at work you are a part of the problem. Fear of retaliation is a fair reason to stay quiet but there are ways to stop a bullying incident without jumping in to the fire.

Bullies are fairly confident people and they respond well to other confident people who do not challenge them directly. Approach a bully with confidence and don’t directly confront them unless it becomes necessary and you will have your best chance of stopping a bullying incident.

Ways to Diffuse a Bully

You can diffuse a bully by acting like an ally. Intervene by warning them that a teacher, adult or other person with authority is on the way, or tell the bully that somebody else has gone to get help.

You could try to play the joker to lighten the situation and divert the bully’s attention to something else. Or you could just act bored and try to get the bully to do something else with you like play a sport or join in a game.

These tactics can diffuse a bullying situation quickly and without incident by distracting a bully without being confrontational.

Never act out aggressively toward a bully; it’s like throwing gas on a fire. You should never put yourself in harms way and should always go to an adult or person with authority and make them aware of the bully. Even if you go away quietly and get help without saying anything to the bully you are still doing something to stop the harassment.

Bullies quickly lose their power when people stop passively accepting their behavior. When it comes to stopping a bully the best thing you can do is refuse to be a silent bystander.

  1. About.com
  2. People & Relationships
  3. Teen Advice
  4. Peer Pressure & Bullying
  5. Are You a Part of the Bullying Problem?

©2014 About.com. All rights reserved.