When we think of bullying, it probably brings up childhood playground memories or the latest news or posts about bullying on social media. Bullying happens far more frequently than we want to admit. Behaviors like attention seeing, putting others down, being physically aggressive, being passively aggressive or just enjoying picking on, insulting or otherwise putting people down – are just a few examples of what bullying can look like.
Are you an adult bully? The truth none of us want to hear is…yes. We have all been a bully at some time. Fortunately for most of us, these are rare occurrences and when it does happen, we feel remorse or guilt. If we’re really on our game, we go as far as apologizing and doing what we can to right the situation. We’re all human beings and none of us is perfect. These behaviors comes from a place of hurt and fear and can even be a defense mechanism. It becomes a serious problem when the intention behind it is to knowingly hurt someone, puff ourselves up regardless of who it may negatively impact or the worst case, we get enjoyment out of it.
So why do we do it? Why do we see it happening and do or say nothing? When you see a coworker being publicly shamed or embarrassed, what do you do? If we’re honest, we get away from the situation as quickly as we can. We don’t want to draw the bully’s attention to ourselves, so it’s every person for themselves.
It’s even worse on social media where we see it happening all the time. We see a mean-spirited comment and scroll on. We’re even less likely to defend our friends and colleagues online than we are in person. It’s just easier to stay invisible and not get involved. The last thing we want to do it draw the social media bully’s attention to us. We don’t want those negative comments on our posts. We don’t want them to become our online stalkers – checking our profiles every day just looking for an opportunity to ‘get us back’. It just feels safer to hit refresh and that post is magically whisked away.
What should you do about the bullying you see? If it is safe to do so, stop it in a way that is not confrontational, but diffuses the situation. You can’t undo the damage, but you may be able to help keep it from escalating. Sometimes our well-intentioned rescue attempts turn into bullying themselves, so be careful. If someone drops a nasty comment on a post, delete it and I you need to, remove that person from your circle.
Most importantly, start where most things start – with yourself and your own behavior. Be a role model and set your intention to be kind and positive. That doesn’t mean that we can’t share constructive feedback with one another, but before you do it consider whether it is more appropriately done in private. If you find that you have bullied someone, apologize. Owning up to our own mistakes and behavior is highly underrated and can work miracles for both you and the person you’ve hurt.
Your words have power – whether spoken, written or passed along by others, so choose them wisely. Be a role model of kindness, compassion and empathy. You can’t change what someone else does, but you can decide who you want to be. As Gandhi said, “Be the change that you wish to see in the world”.