Every one of us will deal with challenging people in our lives at some stage. A lot of us will experience teasing or bullying in some form and it's important to know how best to respond.
*Note: If you’re being bullied and your emotional and mental health is at risk, please tell a trusted adult or get in touch with us in Childline via our Live Message button or by calling 1800 66 66 66.
While it’s not possible to predict whether or not you will ever encounter bullying, it’s good to be prepared in case the situation arises.
In order to nip a potentially serious situation in the bud, it takes a little self-confidence, compassion and an ability to find the humour in your situation before anyone else does!
1. Speak up for yourself from an early age
If somebody says something to you that you don’t like or calls you a name that hurts your feelings or makes you feel bad about yourself, tell them. You don’t have to get angry. The person may not have meant any harm, in fact, it’s likely that they will be horrified that they have upset you.
By expressing your feelings in a calm, honest and upfront manner, you will ensure that it doesn’t happen again or if it does, you won’t be spending time with that person again.
2. Take control of your reaction
Have you ever thought, ‘If only that person would leave me alone/keep her opinions to herself/quit making those snide remarks/mind their own business?’
We all have at one point or another. Unfortunately, people don’t change because we want them to. As much as you might want to change someone’s behaviour or attitude towards you, we’re sorry to say, you can’t. You can only control your reaction to what has happened.
When you realise this, you have the power to make plans to ensure it doesn’t happen again. That could be removing yourself from the conversation/friendship/situation or talking to a trusted adult or family member about it so that the anxiety doesn’t build up and start affecting your sleep or general mental health.
3. Use humour to diffuse the situation
You may have heard of some people who use humour as a ‘defense mechanism’. This is when someone chooses to see the funny side of a situation that could escalate into an argument or row if it continued.
It works against potential bullying in three ways:
- It relieves the tension and shows that you don’t take life too seriously.
- It confuses the bully and makes them less likely to try again if they think you will make them look foolish.
- If you make the joke first, you take control of the narrative and remove the power from anyone who may want to use it against you.
4. Remember, it’s not you, it’s them
As you go through life, you will learn that the sooner you learn not to take things personally, the sooner you will start living a much happier life. Of course, that’s easier said than done!
But it’s a lesson worth learning early because a lot of the time, the bullying is not about you or something you’ve done. It’s about something the bully themselves is going through. Maybe their parents are getting a divorce or their pet has just died. Perhaps they had a massive row with someone they were close to and want to take their frustrations out on you. If you remember that, their words and actions will have much less effect on you.
5. Show compassion for the bully
If you’re reading this and thinking, ‘Eh, are you crazy? Why should I feel compassion for them?’, we get it.
It’s never easy to feel sympathy for someone who is making our lives miserable. But, by showing them compassion, you make yourself feel better. There is an old expression: ‘Revenge is like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to get sick’. Hoping that your tormentor one day ‘gets what they deserve’ might sound satisfying but if it ever happens, chances are it will just feel hollow.
If you can show them compassion, not only will it improve your wellbeing, there’s a chance that it will shock the bully out of their behaviour and even inspire them to apologise for what they’ve put you through.