JKLTip There are mean people everywhere and it’s best we live for our vitality, and let them live for whatever they want
There are mean people everywhere. At some point, we all have to deal with them. Sadly some of us have to deal with these people more than others. This article is for those dealing with bullying. No matter where they go, or what they do, there is someone picking on them. This might help people supporting someone, or dealing with bullying themselves. It’s about trying to focus on those who are being pushed around physically, or emotionally.
To be clear upfront, I do not fall into the camp that believes bullying is not a problem. Some people think it’s part of nature and that we can’t do anything about it. I don’t think that. From what I have seen, a lot of self-injury and suicide have been connected to bullying. It is a problem in society. In the big picture, I think we can do a lot about it. But this post is not about what we can do to fight, avoid, or remove those who are bullying. We don’t have time for that when it comes to supporting people we care about. Focusing on the victim is too valuable to waste time. We need to help them first and most.
There are no excuses, but there are circumstances that lead to the torture that people endure. Sometimes these are purely circumstantial, in which case something like moving schools, or switching jobs may help. But more likely there is something within the personality of the victim, sadly, that adds to the fact that it seems to follow them around.
If we take the stance that people are welcome to their opinion, to freedom of speech, and that people are allowed to be mean then it frees us up to focus on what we can control. Allowing people freedom of speech is an important part of long term peace. We can hope to be appreciated and supported by everyone in the moment, but it’s never a guarantee.
Kill It With Resilience
Kill it with kindness is a bit too much. I mean it is possible that it works. But let’s be honest, it’s too broad and not what people want to hear at the moment.
It is possible to be comfortable for who you are, no matter what struggles you face. For every few people who struggle with their weight and hide from torment about it, there is a plus-size Instagram model setting a trend for loving your body no matter what. For every few developmentally handicapped person who struggles to fit into society, there is one who decided to become a comedian.
So what is going on here? How can these people kill ruthless bullying with resilience?
I think it starts with finding your people, focusing on gratitude, being non-judgemental, loving unconditionally, but above all not storing negative thoughts about others. When we retain negative thoughts or classify someone as a good, or bad we create an inner resistance. It sucks that some kids go through this so young, but I know that learning to deal with difficult people as soon as possible will help them tremendously in accomplishing goals throughout life.
It may seem like the scariest time to be alive because of things like social media. If we post our art or share our song there will be hateful comments. We often feel rejected if we hope to be accepted by all people. If we focus on the positives, it’s the most opportune time to be alive. The people who will support you, who will build you up instead of tear you down do exist and it’s easier than ever to find them.
There are positives that come from having to deal with idiots. We get an opportunity to take the tiny fragment of feedback in what they’re saying when everyone else around us might be too careful to give criticism. We get to use bullying as motivation. So don’t put it off, get more enemies, get more practice, but make sure you have support.
This is especially possible with a strong support network. Changing your mindset from victim to someone who uses hurt as strength almost always requires help. If we surround our kids and friends with the people who will teach them to focus on gratitude and give them skills to deal with haters then they’ll be more than fine, they’ll be great.
Who Do We Deal With?
I need to ensure I’m not coming across as insensitive. I know I will at first because I have sat with numerous parents who trash offices, yell, and cry because their kid is being bullied and we’re “doing nothing about it”. It’s a tough, tough thing to deal with on all sides. So I have a lot of empathy for the scenario.
I also know that every time we turn our attention to the one “bullying” it gets worse. When we turn most of our attention to the victim, great things start to happen. Building resilience is the number one approach that will help the situation. I know this won’t be popular. I know you’re probably thinking, “we can’t let the bully get away with this” or “I’m not in the wrong”. It’s the initial reaction I have seen most of the time.
Many, many times I have had to ask, “this has been going on for years with no success, what do you have to lose trying this method for two months?” I’m thankful that 100% of the time, given trust and cooperation, we have succeeded in turning things around. My current students are all teens, many without parents so it’s more just about supporting them. In this environment, the gains have been incredible too. Brings a tear to my eye.
A tiny side note here. The best-case scenario is also making sure someone has a strong relationship with the one doing the bullying. Connecting with them and breaking it down to figure out what’s going on underneath. Warning, this always ends in tears and a lot of fear spilling out. It should also be done where they don’t feel social anxiety, or it will never help. So, a two-track approach, one with the victim, one with the person bullying is well worth it in say a workplace, a sports team, or a school. But that’s a whole book in itself.
It Is A Problem
Bullying is a real problem in culture. Amongst adults and amongst kids the struggle is real. I do think that organizations like social media platform owners, school administrators and community organizations play a role in preventing bullying. I think they should do their part to educate bullies on how to be better. But blocking people, removing accounts, censoring, it doesn’t make the mean people go away.
It’s a dangerous time right now because we have to be careful not to police what is right or wrong based on our opinions. We can not condemn people for not complying with what we think is the right way to treat people. Personally, somewhere along the way, I think it was getting to know the concept of death row, I took the approach love everyone. Not because I’m fake, or a pushover. I love everyone because it’s easier. It makes my mental energy to social relationships minimal, saving a lot of time to think about awesome things.
It’s also because I know that beneath each jerk there is a reason for that behaviour. Like it or not there is a reason. Now, I’m not proposing we don’t stand up for ourselves. There is a fine line between resilient and indifferent. What I am saying is that everyone is worthy of respect. While this is a societal challenge, it’s way easier than say something like climate change. Climate change takes a massive, coordinated effort of individuals and corporations figuring out what’s most important.
In the case of our mental health around how others treat us it’s different. We can do this ourselves. I have seen it time and time again. As individuals with support and coaching, we can build life changing resilience. I have testimonial after testimonial where giving students, or friends the right amount of support to deal with hate, they begin to spread their wings. Now, it’s not easy, but very doable.
What We Want
It’s not always pretty, but when people learn that they are capable of standing up for themselves, they build a tool belt of tricks to deal with negative people. They build leadership traits, social skills and increase their circle of safe relationships instead of increasing isolation.
There is a complexity and intuition to dealing with bullying, but some things that are pretty universal can be implemented. For one, be patient and try not to overreact. In fact, giving the people involved the twenty-four-hour rule often proves helpful. In the big picture, it’s not something that will get “fixed” overnight either, so build a long term, consistent and persistent plan.
Reminding people that any behavior is not a permanent characteristic. It’s just a behavior. It’s actions we see as a symptom of the moment. The person can change. Actually the person will change. It’s just a matter of changing for better or worse? Create a system of support. The victim should have a go to person, some they trust, to check in with at least daily. Perhaps twice daily. They can role play scenarios, or learn skills, but mostly it gives someone to just listen.
Add as many healthy coping mechanisms, personal development strategies as possible. For example, who is your hero? Who is your anti-hero? How can you focus on positives? How can we develop more gratitude, perspective, and head fake happiness. For me the only place I felt safe was on a football field (backwards I know). So how can you involve the victim in as much of what brings them joy as possible?
* Let’s work together: 8 Billion People
** Read Why Just Keep Learning: JKL Post