A bully is someone who is habitually mean to others, inflicting both physical and psychological abuse on his or her victims. Bullies can appear at schools, in workplaces, and on the Internet. Bullying can also take on an international scale when nations bully each other with their politics and militaries. Bullying can be extremely harmful on every level, and there are a variety of ways to deal with bullies and their actions.
Bullies tend to pick on targets they think are weak. Children, for example, will target children who are younger than they are, along with children who look different because of race, disabilities, or fashion sense. People who appear emotionally weak may also be targeted for bullying. Bullies themselves are often former or current victims of bullying. Children who have unstable home lives, for example, may take out their frustration and aggression on other children.
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Many bullies use physical intimidation and threats to frighten their victims into staying silent. A victim of bullying may become emotionally withdrawn, shy, anxious, or easily upset, and he or she may evidence marked behavioral changes. For example, a child being bullied at the pool may start avoiding the pool, even if he or she formerly liked going, or an employee who is being bullied might change his or her work habits to avoid the bully. Someone being bullied online might start using the Internet yes, or demonstrate a decline in self-esteem.
Bullying behavior often marks the start of larger antisocial behavior, which is one reason why it's important to catch bullies early. In addition to sparing victims considerable pain and suffering, early intervention can also prevent the development of additional antisocial behaviors, getting the bully the help he or she needs to address problems at home, emotional stress, and other issues.
There are two aspects to dealing with a bully: avoiding interaction with the bully to reduce incidents, and standing up to the bully in the event that avoidance doesn't work. While totally changing one's lifestyle and habits to avoid a bully is not advised, common-sense precautions like taking a different route through the office, walking to school with a buddy, or using websites which are not friendly to bullying behavior are a good step to take. In the event that one does encounter a bully, not engaging is the best strategy. Bullies feed on fear and expressions of emotion, so standing up to the bully, saying “no” to requests, and walking away can often be highly effective.
It is also important to report bullying behavior. Since children are sometimes afraid or ashamed about being victims, encouraging children to report bullies is a good idea. Parents and siblings who have experienced bullying should also talk to kids about their past, to illustrate that many people are victimized by bullies, and that speaking up is the right thing to do. Communicating with teachers and school staff about bullying issues is also important. In the case of workplace bullies, talking to a boss or coworker about the issue helps, and cyberbullies can often be dealt with through reports to the owners of websites where they congregate: it may be possible to ban a bully from a site if his or her bullying causes demonstrable harm.
If you spot bullying behavior, you can also take action. Sometimes it only takes one person to speak up and end bullying.