What is the Best Strategy for Dealing with Bullies?

Michael Pollick

Life for a victim would most likely be so much easier if there were indeed one simple and reliable method for dealing with bullies. Unfortunately, the issue of bullyism can be far more complicated, and a tactic which would work well under one set of circumstances may not work so well under another. When dealing with bullies, a victim often has to try any number of things in order to get rid of a bully, or at least level the playing field. Some methods of dealing with bullies can provide swift results, while others may need time to take full effect. There are a few ideas, however, which would have little to no effect on the bully but could definitely affect the health and well-being of the victim. When dealing with bullies on the schoolyard, at home or in the workplace, it pays to be cautious.

A supervisor or manager who constantly harasses his staff or intimidates subordinates through physical and/or verbal abuse could ultimately cost the company millions of dollars in legal claims.
A supervisor or manager who constantly harasses his staff or intimidates subordinates through physical and/or verbal abuse could ultimately cost the company millions of dollars in legal claims.

One way of dealing with bullies is to confront them directly, essentially calling their bluff. For many bullies, the act of intimidating a victim through threats of violence is far more gratifying than using actual violence. The last thing a bully really wants is to get into a real fight with a victim, since the bully has no real idea of the victim's capabilities and motivation. When a victim decides to stand his or her ground and invite the bully to carry out his or her threats, a bully often realizes he or she has lost the power of intimidation. All that is left to do is face an angry victim who has little to lose in a physical confrontation. There is a very good chance a bully will back down or find a different victim if confronted directly.

It may be best to simply walk away from a bully.
It may be best to simply walk away from a bully.

Some bullies are actually victims of abuse themselves and are simply acting out or mirroring the abuse they've witnessed elsewhere. If a victim could establish a empathetic rapport with an abused bully, then the ongoing situation could be defused without resorting to violence. Some bullies don't fully comprehend why it is wrong to physically assault another student or co-worker, since they grew up in homes where domestic abuse was the norm. By recognizing a bully's violent tendencies as the result of a broken home or physical abuse, a bully's target may be able to negotiate a truce by showing genuine empathy.

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Dealing with a bully in the wrong manner could escalate the situation into violence.
Dealing with a bully in the wrong manner could escalate the situation into violence.

Incidents of workplace bullying should be carefully documented and reported by victims. A supervisor or manager who constantly harasses his or her staff or intimidates subordinates through physical and/or verbal abuse could ultimately cost the company millions of dollars in legal claims, so a victim of workplace abuse would be doing his or her employers a great service by reporting a workplace bully. Documenting any and all incidents of bullyism in a private journal can demonstrate a pattern of abusive behavior if the matter does reach the level of a court hearing. A workplace bully often counts on employees valuing their employment too much to risk filing a formal complaint, so there may also be strength in numbers when dealing with bullies in the workplace.

Bullies often grow up in homes where domestic abuse was or is the norm.
Bullies often grow up in homes where domestic abuse was or is the norm.

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Discussion Comments

Melonlity

@Markerrag -- not bad advice, but why not go one step farther? How many times have kids stood around and watched while a bully picks on another child? We taught our kids to do something when they see bullying. That doesn't mean jump in the middle of a fight, but it does mean that they should get a teacher or something rather than standing around and watching a bully go to work.

Markerrag

I'm not sure about what other parents do, but my wife and I taught our kids from the time they were little something that has turned out to be an effective way to deal with bullies. We told them both they had better not pick a fight, but it is fine to end one if they wind up in a fight.

That has worked quite well. Apparently, a lot of bullies will choose the path of least resistance. Is a bully more likely to pick on a kid that will put up with it or one that will fight back? The answer might not be obvious in every case, but our kids can be aggressive when they need to be and that has kept them from being bullied at school.

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