Sometimes, bullies come to us and apologize in private for their behavior and promise that they won’t do it again. Does that mean that the harassment, abuse and bullying will stop? When we receive a private confession and apology, it’s natural for us to heave a sigh of relief and relax; to give up our fear and anger. And then share our secrets, fears and hopes, which is often what bullies want. Real-world bullies will simply use this new information to embarrass us or stab us in the back.
It’s also natural for us to think that bullies are so ashamed they wouldn’t confess and apologize in public. There are a very small percentage of bullies who will stop after a private apology, but don’t be fooled. Most will continue manipulating and abusing us after a private apology. If they give reasons, excuses and justifications, or blame us for their bad behavior, that’s a bad sign.
Don’t be like all those battered women (and men) – beaten verbally, mentally, emotionally and spiritually, as well as physically – whose abusers come with an apology and want to be taken back in as if nothing happened. The apology – and maybe candy the next time and flowers the time after – counts for nothing.
Keep those perpetrators at a great distance. Or give them another chance if you want, but from a great distance. Make them behave wonderfully for at least five years. If they can’t court you for five years, vote them off your island.
A public apology counts for much more, especially from covert, sneaky manipulative bullies.
But the bottom line is behavior. So when we receive a private apology, I’d recommend saying “Thank you.” And not thinking we have a new friend, but also asking, “What will you do to make amends in public?” Or even, “Thank you. I’ll see how you act in the future to know if you’ve really changed.”
We might even suggest acts that we’ll count to mean that the bully has really changed. That’s how we find out if someone is actually a friend or is a false friend, or if we’ll only be hearing words but not seeing deeds.
Or we might be more gracious in saying nothing but we’ll still keep watching and keeping score. We shouldn’t give them our wallet or car keys. We should test bullies by small steps to see if they’re trustworthy. Be determined and persevering.
For example, see the case study of dieter Tammy being attacked by her false friend Helen in “How to Stop Bullies in Their Tracks,” available fastest from this web site. Or the case studies of Brandi and Lucy with their boyfriends.