When most people think of bullying they often conjure images of the aggressive child on the playground. The one who hits, pushes, taunts and teases other children but, in reality, this is a very limited view of bullying. These bullies certainly exist but bullying is more than that.
One often also associates bullying to childhood but if we take a moment to delve a little deeper it’s startling to find how alive and well bullying is in the adult world. We can find adult bullying in every relationship possible. Romantic relationships, in the workplace, organizational and peer groups and adult to child relationships. How can we begin to change the landscape of bullying in the lives of our children’s lives if, in fact, adults are modeling the same behaviour?
The four most common types of bullying are:
Verbal – name-calling, sarcasm, teasing, spreading rumours, threatening, making negative references to one’s culture, ethnicity, race, religion, gender, or sexual orientation, unwanted sexual comments.
Relational or Social – social exclusion, mobbing, scapegoating, humiliating others with public gestures or graffiti intended to put others down. Any intentional act of creating “other” or a “us vs them” culture.
Physical – all forms of physical violence including hitting, poking, pinching, chasing, shoving, coercing, destroying or stealing belongings, unwanted sexual touching.
Cyber – using the internet or text messaging to intimidate, put-down, spread rumours or make fun of someone.
Bullying can often be mistaken for conflict and although there is not a universal definition of bullying there are some key components that separate bullying from conflict.
- Imbalance of power (social or physical) perceived by the bully or by others
- Intent (to do harm)
Resentment and envy may be motives for bullying as can feelings of low self-worth, inferiority and need for control. Some bullies can appear arrogant and narcissistic but many more especially in teens and adults are often very social, popular, and well-liked. Their weapons of choice are often isolation, exclusion, and ostracization. These bullies are much harder to spot and as such the behaviour goes on, often for extended periods of time, without notice.
Bullying at its core is the intentional and deliberate acts of one (or more) individuals to make another “less”. Humans by nature are social creatures and will seek out connection and relationship for feelings of well-being. The actions of bullies are intended to lead people to feel unsafe and thinking there must be something wrong with them, that they do not belong. Bullying can have long-term physical and psychological consequences regardless of age. Some of these include:
- withdrawal from family and friends
- Panic attacks
- Stomach aches & headaches
- avoidance of school/social groups
- decreased ability to focus and concentrate
- emotional reactivity
- violence & suicide
Bullying also hurts bystanders they become afraid they could be the next victim. Even if they are acutely uncomfortable or feel bad for the person being bullied they will avoid getting involved sometimes because they are not sure what to do, but most often to protect themselves and their social position.
My love of studying human nature and the prevalence that this topic comes up in both my coaching and my classes (adults & kids) has led me to do this 5 part series. In the next four parts of this series, I will examine each of the four most common types of bullying in more detail, share with you some personal stories and give you some tips to help you or your child prevent, end, and heal from bullying.