Be clear about what is and what is not bullying
Research shows that one in every two people are affected by bullying. It is something that people still find very hard to discuss. Research, information, education in schools, employer advice, safety online, children, adults and the elderly are all areas and people where there is some progress, but as our awareness of bullying develops then I think confusion can occur.
Increasingly I think the word can be used incorrectly and it is really important to be clear about whether your or another person’s behaviour is bullying. If used incorrectly misunderstandings can be magnified and conflicts made worse, sometimes partners might accuse each other of bullying as it can justify ending a relationship. However it is also essential not to shy away from the word when bullying is happening.
“No good can come from a person being trapped in bullying and to stop a bully is to also give them a chance to change their behaviour”.
So the first step is to be able to identify bullying. This sounds obvious but in my work I have found that many people have not realised they are being bullied. Meanwhile I also hear people accuse others of bullying behaviour when on closer examination there is actually something else happening.
Bullying can take many forms but in essence it is deliberately setting out to hurt another person either emotionally or physically. It is a pattern of repeated behaviour and one that leads to the bullied person feeling differently about themselves and the world. Threatening behaviour, insults, unfair treatment, gaslighting and excluding are all possible manifestations. It is also something that often occurs to certain people because of factors such as how they appear, a disability, sexuality, gender, race or religion. There is always a purpose to bullying – it will be to make the other person feel bad and / or to get them to behave differently or do something that the bully wants.
BullyingUK is a charity that provides information and advice through their website www.bullying.co.uk and it can give you information whether you are experiencing bullying at home, work, school, online or any other context. It is also very good in terms of helping where you might be bullied for a specific reason for example your sexuality. But for the rest of this article I want to help you think about your relationships and whether bullying might be a concern.
First of all think about your family, friends, colleagues are there any relationships where you can find yourself feeling uncomfortable, this means that you feel uncomfortable either because you can feel unpleasant feelings or you sense the other person is in some way uncomfortable?
Secondly, identify what is it about your interactions that feel uncomfortable? Is it things that are said to you, is it things you find yourself saying to them? Do you feel irritated, frustrated, nervous or scared? Do you find yourself acting differently around them to how you normally behave? Do you observe that they treat you differently to other people? Has anyone who knows you and spent time with you said anything to you about what they see happening?
Are your requests / wishes ignored? Do you feel forced into doing what the other person wants? Does the person approach you even when you have shown no interest in contact with them? Do you think there is an obvious or perceived power imbalance? Do you think the person might find your interactions with them hurtful or upsetting? Do they ever say that you are being unfair? Do they always do what you want at the expense of what they want? Are either of you always right or always wrong?
Third, what have you tried to change or stop what is happening? What haven’t you tried and why? Have you tried telling the person that you find their behaviour towards you hurtful? If so did they ignore what you said and continue or increase the hurtful behaviour? Or are you just too frightened to even try? If this is the case then talk this over with someone as the situation needs to change.
If you are wondering whether you might have been bullying then can you remember how the other person responded in to your actions or words. Did they appear calm and relaxed or nervous and scared, what did you then do? Did you continue with your words and actions? Did you ask them if they were ok? Did they do what you wanted even though they had said it was not what they wanted? If you now think that maybe you might have treated them badly you might consider asking them or find someone who you can talk this through with.
People can feel ashamed if they have been bullied or guilty and afraid if they have been the one bullying, so speaking to someone you don’t know can often be really helpful. It is important to be able to feel able to tell the whole story’ if you find yourself editing out things you or the other person did then this suggests you are not talking this through with the right person.
Often people get caught up in debate about whether one or other of the people in “bullying” situations is right or wrong. This is really unhelpful, bullying is a behaviour which causes harm and action must always be taken to ensure it is stopped.
Psychotherapist, Counsellor, Couples Counsellor and Coach
UKCP registrant, MBACP (accred), UKRCP
PGDip, MA, Adv Dip Ex Psych
Nicholas Rose & Associates
Counselling, psychotherapy and coaching for children, adults, couples and families.
Read more blogs by Nicholas Rose
Read the next in the series – Mind Matters: To hibernate or not to hibernate? That is the question …
Read the previous one – Mind Matters: The rush to judge
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