One of the typical tactics of sly, sneaky, stealthy, manipulative bullies is to work in the dark; to not be seen to be bullies. Then, when a light is shined on their abusive behavior, they claim that they were just having fun; that they were just kidding around; that they didn’t know their target was offended, hurt or minded their attacks. This tactic is used at home by bullying, toxic spouses, parents or children, and by bullies and their cliques in schools and at work.
In order to stop these bullies you must protest; you must say “No!”
Often, people decide to ignore the bullying. These targets (on their way to becoming victims):
- Believe that their kindness and forgiveness will touch the conscience and heart of the bullies and generate kind responses. They believe their unconditional love or turning the other cheek or using the Golden Rule will convert bullies to a new way of being.
- Hope that if the bullies don’t get a reaction, they’ll go bully someone else.
- Don’t think they have a right to protest or resist.
- Beg or appease because they’re afraid that if they confront, the bully will escalate.
- Think that not responding in kind is somehow more moral or spiritual.
Ignoring bullies can be a good first response, but only if we use it as a test. If we ignore the bully and he stops, fine. We’re okay. But if the bully moves on to bully someone else, the question then becomes, “Are we willing to be good witnesses?”
But what if the bullying doesn’t stop? Usually, determined, relentless bullies are only encouraged by lack of resistance. They see a non-resisting target as holding up a “victim” sign and they escalate. They can’t understand the moral impetus behind such kindness. They’re bullies. They interpret our lack of push-back as fear and weakness, no matter how we interpret it. They’re encouraged to organize cliques to demean, mock, attack and hurt us more.
Other people assume that if we’re not protesting, we must know we’re in the wrong; we must deserve the treatment we’re getting. Our society saw that phenomenon when women didn’t cry “rape!”
At school, if we and our children don’t protest loudly, clearly and in writing to teachers, principals and district administrators, bullies can excuse and justify their behavior by claiming they didn’t know we thought of their actions as bullying. So, of course, they felt free to continue bullying. And we’ll have no defense. This goes for physical, mental, emotional and cyber-bullying.
At work, many bullies use the same tactic. Even if our company has rules against bullying, if we didn’t protest loudly, firmly and in writing, we’ll have no legal grounds to stand on later. Our supervisors need written documentation in order to act. And we need it in order to hold cowardly, conflict-avoidant supervisors accountable later.
Of course, we must also protest against abuse by overt bullies, even if that makes them feel proud. But that will get the ball rolling for our resistance.
But, if we protest, won’t the bullying get worse? Maybe or maybe not. Remember, what happened we tried the test of not protesting? When we didn’t protest, the harassment, abuse and bullying got worse. So we might as well learn to protest effectively; the first step of which is creating records and documentation.
And we don’t want to live our lives as cowards, do we? Remember the old and very true sayings about cowards dying a thousand deaths. That’s an underestimate. If we don’t protest, our negative self-talk, blame, shame, guilt, fear, anxiety, stress and depression will pervade our lives. Our lives will shrivel like prunes.
For some techniques to overcome worry, fear and hesitation, see the case studies in “How to Stop Bullies in Their Tracks” and “Bullies Below the Radar: How to Wise Up, Stand Up and Stay Up,” available fastest from this web site.
If we protest, will the bullies stop? Although there’s a guarantee that relentless bullies will escalate if we don’t protest, there’s no guarantee that simply protesting will stop them. Protesting is only the first step in responding effectively. We may need to go up to higher steps to stop a particular bully.