Bullying is repeated, intentional and often habitual behaviour that is harmful to others. It happens when there is an imbalance of power with either groups of young people targeting one person or a smaller group or it can be an imbalances in rank, position, gender or age. It is aggressive in nature and intended to hurt emotionally, socially, physically or mentally. Bullying is increasingly happening in schools and workplaces and it should not be left to the individual to manage alone. Often bullying is a systemic problem meaning these aggressive behaviours can run in families, groups of people and in organisations.
Despite education around the harmful impacts of bullying, one in four young people in the USA experience bullying and the problem appears to be getting worse. In the workplace when bullying takes place and it can be even more complicated because the impacts on your capacity to earn a living and may affect your personal relationships too. If you're experiencing bullying I highly recommend seeking support from friends, colleagues, people in positions of power (teachers, bosses, leaders) and professionals and do something about it.
Todays blog offers some professional counselling strategies on what to do if you're experiencing bullying and if the problem continues to grow please consider having some holistic counselling sessions. I always remind my clients that you can't control the behaviour of others so best to focus on yourself and do what is in your control to make a difference. But remember abusive relationships are against the law and if bullying consistently grows worse you do not have to continue to put up with it.
How to know the signs if you or your teenager is being bullied
Feeling reluctant to go to work o school or sign into your computer (cyber bulling)
You notice mood changes after being online or interacting with colleagues
Your teenager has a lot more sick days and starts refusing to go to school
Your teenagers behaviour changes and has unexplained bruises or injuries
The behaviour has been going on for sometime and is impacting your whole life
You feel anxious about going to work and interacting with your team
You or your teenager becomes withdrawn, anxious or depressed
Any of these signs are important to pay attention to. Sometimes we can minimise things when they happen because we might feel surprised or awkward about what is happening and simply don't know what to do. Taking action early on can help stop things from escalating and give you an opportunity to be proactive.
What can you do if you or your teen is being bullied?
The Importance of Calm and Self-Care
When someone is being bullied the best thing for them is to have a supportive and calm person listen to them so they can open up about the experience and feel like they are not alone. It is important to know that what is happening is wrong and to relieve any feelings of pain, shame or embarrassment. It is really important to give your teen space to communicate what is going on for them and not go into fixing mode too quickly. It's most helpful just supporting so your young person can start thinking about problem solving with your support. Overreacting to bullying can shut down your teenager and makes things bigger than they need to be. At the same time it is important not to minimise the situation.
It's not Your Fault & You're not to Blame
It is also important not to blame yourself or your teen for what is happening. Most of the time there is no reason for bullying and has less about you and more to do with the person who is doing the bullying and the problems in their background. Talk to as many people about the issue as you can and encourage your teen to talk to other adults at school and in their community. Especially if you feel you can't support your teen without getting upset.
Respond from Values, Don't React Out of Fear
When someone says or does something intended to harm you it's normal to feel sacred, shocked, hurt or reactive. Our reaction might be to freeze and do nothing, lash out in anger and lose control of ourselves and fight back, or break down and cry. But reacting to a bully draws you into their toxic dynamic and usually perpetuates the bullying. Remember your values and perhaps have a preemptive way of responding that feels right for you like, "back off" " please stop" "I've had enough" ready and set up so you don't have to think. Take a few deep breaths, try to remain present, stay neutral and detached and when you have said it walk away.
Be Supported by Strength in Numbers
Trying to manage a bullying situation on your own is really scary and very difficult. If you're young person ask for help from your teachers, your school leaders, your school counsellor, your parents. If you're an adult, speak to safe people at work, colleagues, friends, family and your partner. The more people who support you the stronger you will feel. Remember you're never alone with this and there is always help only a phone call away. There are many free phone support services available online too. Some agencies that can help initially are Kids help line, National Centre against bullying, Fair Work Commission and the Victorian State Government Bully Stoppers Website.
Know what Healthy Relationships Are
When you've experienced bullying you might notice that you find it difficult to feel confident and speak up. Being poorly treated overtime is devastating for our wellbeing and self-esteem and it can really damage the way we start relating to all our relationships and friendships. Knowing and practising your personal boundaries is really important as well as young people learning about healthy friendships and even adults understanding what good workplace relationships are.