How to Handle a Bully

How to Handle a Bully

Characteristics of a bully:

  • The bully wants to gain control over another.
  • Usually through physical force, threats, verbal teasing, harassment and exclusion from friends and peers.
  • Doesn't know how to get along with others.
  • Usually alone or with a small select group.
  • Will do things to feel better and more powerful.
  • When feeling powerless, will become more aggressive to attempt to gain power.

Why do some people bully:

  • It solves their social problems.
  • It is easier to bully than to work things out, manage emotions and learn to solve problems.
  • The bully never learned the social skills they were supposed to develop in elementary school.
  • Since they didn't learn how to get along with other people, they try to control them through force and intimidation.

What can a person do?

Do not play their game, make them play yours.

  • If you don't understand the bully's game you will lose.
  • If you do understand the bully's game and play it anyway, you will lose.
  • If you understand the bully's game and do not play it, you will win.
  • Frustrate the bully's expectations: They bully wants you to be their opponent in the game. To show you are not playing, avoid saying 'you' and talking to them directly. Talking to them directly show them they matter.
  • Don't ask the bully questions: Why? Because then you want something from them. If you question, then not only does the bully matter to you but you are in a weak position because you are trying to get them to do something they may not want to do. They are now in control. Remember, you don't want anything from the bully. 
  • Turn your body away from the bully, and make them talk to your back.  If the bully is talking to your side or back, they are verbally attacking from a position of weakness. If you talk to them, talk to them over your shoulder. Everything you say and do with your voice and body sends the message 'you don't matter much'.
  • Ignore: If you ignore the bully without looking like you are running away, then this tactic can be effective. You can glance briefly and quizzically at the bully, but turn away. Act as if you did not even hear what they said.
  • Dismissing:  Acknowledge the bully, but brush them off in a way that shows it doesn't matter.  The key is to turn away afterward.  You don't want to wait staring at the bully, waiting for another comment.  You might say...How's it going?  Maybe later, I'll get back to you, What's up?  Cute, Clever, Right, Gotcha'.
  • Misunderstanding: Pretend that you just received a compliment. Whatever insult the bully makes, misunderstand it as compliment.
    • bully: 'that's stupid hat'
    • you:  'yeah, this hat is great' ; glad you like it'
    • Non-verbal brush offs are good.  You show the bully they are not worth enough to waste words on.  Yawn, nod, scratch your head.  Look puzzled.  Turn away.
    • You can also turn the complement into a joke.
      • bully: 'that's a stupid hat'
      • you: 'like it?  when i get my business going, you can be a distributor.'
      • you: 'if you like this one, you should see the one I wore yesterday!'
    • If the bully laughs, their attack has been rendered useless.  Be careful, insulting the bully might give reason for the bully to insult back.
    • You can also play hard of hearing:
      • bully: 'that's a stupid shirt'
      • you: 'did someone say something funny?'
      • you: 'sounds like someone said he has a stupid shirt'
    • Ribbing: Laugh and just walk away.
    • Reflecting: 'Dude, that was just plain lame.  You can do better.'
    • Agreeing: In this tactic, you agree with what a bully says, and sometimes make a joke out of it.  This works well if the bully has a sense of humor.  If you agree, they have nothing to respond back with.
      • bully: 'that's a stupid hat'
      • you: 'I know, it's all I could find at the moment'

Resist the temptation to bully back

  • Remember, all bullies give you something (their attention) and try to get something (a negative reaction).  One effective tactic against persistent bullies is to make fun of the attention the bully is giving you.
    • 'You must really like talking to me because you don't stop'
    • Do you like me that much that you keep giving me your attention?'
  • Saying something mean back makes the problem bigger, not better. A response often prompts a similar response.
  • Some people try to bully back and think that it's a good way to get rid of the bully. It's actually the worst idea because it angers the bully even more, and gives them a reason to retaliate.
  • Keep a log of what is happening. Include the date, time, location and any witnesses. A log shows there is a pattern and it is more difficult for the bully to deny what they are doing.
  • People who project a positive, assertive attitude, keeping one's head up, showing confidence are less likely to get picked on . A smart person will move away from people who might start trouble.
  • Use your voice. Make it clear that you don't like something. Say it in an assertive voice, loudly and clearly.
  • Set a clear boundary. Take charge of your space by moving away as soon as a problem is about to start.
  • Leave in a powerful, positive way. The best self-defense tact is called 'target denial', which means 'don't be there'. Say in a normal voice something like 'see you later' or 'have a nice day' while calmly and confidently walking away.
  • Fighting is a last resort. When you are about to be harmed and cannot leave use it as your last option.
  • Be persistent in getting help. Tell a parent, and adult or someone else who can help. If the adult doesn't listen or nothing seems to change, keep talking until someone does listen and the problem is fixed.

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