Dana is a seven-year old with a good heart. In order to help a new girl, Amanda, break into her school, Dana befriends her. She talks to the girl, hangs out with her on the playground and even has her mother arrange play-dates. Dana is cheerful and popular, and her efforts are successful. Other children also become friends with Amanda. But, even in the beginning of their friendship Amanda often manipulates, controls and bullies Dana. Dana wonders, “Is Amanda really my friend and what should I do?” Here’s what Amanda does.
Actually, Amanda is a manipulative, controlling stealth bully. Stealth bullies are:
- Selfish – When Dana won’t do what Amanda wants, Amanda gets angry. She yells that Dana is bad. Amanda insists that her opinions matter more than Dana’s.
- Critical – She criticizes Dana’s clothes and what Dana likes to do. She’s gleeful when she points out Dana’s mistakes. She’s always putting Dana down, topping her, countering her and staying one-up. She’s always right and righteous about it.
- Hyper-sensitive – When Dana plays with other girls, Amanda says that her feelings are hurt. According to Amanda, Dana is her best friend and she’s supposed to play only with Amanda. Amanda says that the only way Dana can make her feel good is for Dana to do what she wants.
- Deceitful – Amanda doesn’t apply that rule to herself. She feels perfectly free to play with whoever she wants to. She even snubs Dana when she wants to become “best friends” for a while with the other person.
- Righteous finger-pointers – Amanda is always right and when her feelings are hurt, it’s 100 percent Dana’s fault. She always blames Dana.
Dana is mystified. Amanda says that she’s Dana’s best friend but Dana often feels verbally abused and emotionally intimidated. Amanda stimulates Dana’s self-doubt and insecurity. Dana doesn’t know what she’s done wrong when Amanda is hurt and angry.
Since Dana doesn’t identify Amanda as a stealth bully, she doesn’t resist Amanda’s attempts to manipulate and control her.
My coaching with Dana’s parents awakens them to the problem. Their daughter is being manipulated and controlled. I teach them how to help Dana recognize the patterns of Amanda’s manipulating.
So, how can Dana decide if Amanda is really her friend? Dana and her parents make a list based on her interactions with Amanda – what would a true friend do in each of those situations? Using this simple method, Dana can see that Amanda hasn’t done any of those things. Dana recognizes that Amanda is a stealth bully.
Actions speak louder than words. Actions show you who’s a true friend. Reasons, justifications and excuses don’t. Just like the expression, “Follow the money,” I use the expression, “Follow the actions.”
Dana’s parents help her accept that she’s done nothing wrong. Amanda is the one with the problem. Amanda doesn’t know how to be a good friend.
But the important question for Dana is not, “Is Amanda my friend?” The important question is, “Do I want to be with a person who acts like that, whether or not she calls herself my friend?” Whatever Amanda’s upbringing and family problems are, she will have to act better if she wants to be with Dana.
Dana is now well on her way to breaking the pattern and creating a bully-free personal space. She’s learned a valuable lesson she’ll need in junior high school.