In summer the “Queen Bees” come out in force. Every neighborhood has at least one. For example, Jill was jealous of Mary. All the other women in the neighborhood liked Mary. Her home was always open; she always had treats; her kids are fun and shared their toys and games. The nicer Mary was, the more the other neighbors liked her, the more jealous Jill was.
Jill made excuses about what Mary had done that made her dislike Mary, but underneath it was simple envy that turned to hate. In Jill’s mind there was room for only one queen bee in the hive.
Jill’s venom came out in sneaky, backstabbing tactics.
She tried turning the other moms against Mary. She whispered in one person’s ear that Mary liked someone else better and had given that person better gifts or had brought better food to that person’s picnic. In another ear she whispered some malicious and catty things that Mary had supposedly said. In a third ear she whispered that Mary thought that the woman’s children were stupid and nasty.
To Mary, two-faced Jill was sweet and smiling. She even told Mary some nasty things other people had supposedly said about her.
It took a while for Mary to realize that false rumors and malicious gossip about her were being circulated and even longer to recognize the source. The neighborhood had been a friendly place in which all families got together, but it soon become a tense battleground in which previously friendly women become suspicious of each other. Husbands were eventually drawn into the conflict.
Jill was in her element. She knew how to drive wedges between people and also how to bring people together into a clique with her as the head. She used Mary as the target and scapegoat for her clique.
At first Mary took it personally. She assumed that she must have done something wrong to offend Jill. Stress, anxiety, self-doubt and negative self-talk soon decreased her confidence and self-esteem. She tried explaining her good motives in response to each charge that Jill leveled at her, but she could never satisfy Jill that she wanted to be friends.
It took Mary a while before she recognized in Jill’s actions the seven signs of stealth bullies. She finally understood that Jill’s hidden agenda was not personal in the sense that as long as the other women liked Mary more, there was nothing Mary could do to placate or appease Jill. No amount of begging, bribery or appeasement would stop Jill’s bullying; the Golden Rule wouldn’t stop Jill’s bullying.
Ruling the hive was Jill’s personal agenda and she wouldn’t let Mary remain in the way.
Eventually, Mary went outside her comfort zone. She stopped being reluctant about creating tension or conflict or making a scene in public. She decided to shine a light on Jill’s gossip, innuendo and lies. One at a time, starting with her closest friends who were aware of Jill’s tactics, Mary clarified the situation and repeated what Jill had been saying about them. Then she got them together so they could compare notes.
She then spoke one to one with every other woman in the neighborhood.
But that wasn’t enough. When she caught Jill in blatant lies, she made them public at neighborhood gatherings. Mary was always sweet and smiling when she asked Jill to clarify what she had said about one of the other women or about their children.
Jill was surprised and unprepared. She’d always been able to hide in the shadows because women where she had lived previously had been too polite to create conflict and tension in public. Once Mary begun shining a light on Jill’s actions, other women began noticing what Jill had done to them. They noticed how afraid they’d begun to feel about offending Jill and started figuring out why that had happened.
At first, the neighborhood split into camps. Over time more and more women moved into renewed friendship with Mary. They found that they couldn’t stay in the middle. Jill always trapped them into some shabby, hostile plot. Jill’s camp grew smaller and smaller. Mary’s good character and friendliness won out. Jill’s controlling, sneaky tactics become more apparent.
That was last summer. By Christmas, the balance had swung in Mary’s favor. Jill and her family moved away.
Leading up to this summer, the women are planning more family activities. Tension has decreased, but it will take the rest of the summer before the camaraderie gets close to what they had before Jill moved in. Maybe one more family will still move.
Stealth bullies like Jill can be difficult to detect and even harder to stop. Most of their targets have to go through a self-bullying, self-questioning phase before they realize that they’re not at fault, that they didn’t do anything wrong to start the abuse.
Expert coaching is usually required for people to regain their strength, determination and courage, and to overcome their old hesitations in order to create an effective plan to stop the bullying.