Coping with Bullying
Our page ‘An Introduction to Bullying’ explains some of the terms and concepts in bullying, including why bullying happens, and gives some general advice about how to cope.
This page provides more detailed and specific advice about what to do if you are the subject of bullying, including who to tell, and what might happen next.
This page focuses particularly on young people, and bullying at school.
While much of the information on this page may also be applicable to workplace bullying, you may also like to read our more specific page on Bullying in the Workplace.
You Are Not Alone
First of all, however it may feel if you are being bullied, you are not alone.
Some estimates suggest that up to 70% of young people have experienced bullying at some point, although this includes as perpetrator, victim and witness.
Bullying is a big problem across cultures and age-groups there is help available and things will get better.
The second thing to remember is that it is not your fault.
Whatever you think, however low your confidence or self-esteem you need to remember that bullying is not your fault - but it is your responsibility to address it.
There are four main steps to managing bullying.
- Tell Someone Else
- Ask The Bully To Stop
- Ignore It and Walk Away
- Look Confident
1. Tell Someone Else
You may not be alone BUT…
…you do need to tell someone what is happening.
You are unlikely to be able to resolve the bullying yourself, or you would already have done so.
Who you tell may depend on who is bullying you, and where. While it is common for bullies to be known to their victims through school, this is not the only option. For example, children at one school may be bullied on the way to school by one or more children from another nearby school.
You could tell:
- A friend, either of your own age, or an older one, who may have more experience and could advise you. Some schools run ‘buddy’ schemes, so you might choose to ask your ‘buddy’ for advice;
- Your parents, who will almost certainly have to know sooner or later. It may be easier to tell them yourself, sooner, rather than wait for them to find out from someone else;
- A teacher, perhaps your form teacher or head of year;
- Another adult, such as a youth leader, school counsellor or friend’s parent.
If the bullying continues after action has been taken to stop it, keep telling people it is happening. If you don’t keep telling them, they won’t know it’s still happening.
If you are being bullied online (cyberbullying), perhaps on social media, for example, Facebook, you can use the CEOP button (Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre) to report it.
If the bully is at your school, the school should have an anti-bullying policy, which it will need to follow. This usually means sanctions against a bully, such as time out of the classroom or even exclusion.
2. Ask The Bully To Stop
This second step may be very difficult, especially if you have allowed the bullying to go on for a long time before telling anyone else.
You may, however, be asked by the school to have a meeting with the bully.
If you don’t want to do this, you don’t have to do so. Consider, though, that it may have a positive effect.
The bully may be unaware of how bad you feel, and it may bring them up short (this is the principle behind victim impact statements in court).
Use our page on Giving and Receiving Feedback to help you to put your issues in terms of ‘When you did/said this, I felt that’, as this is easier to hear, and less likely to make the bully defensive.
Practise keeping your delivery confident and assertive, and explain that you don’t like their behaviour, and you would appreciate it if they stopped.
You may find our pages on Assertiveness helpful.
3. Ignore It and Walk Away
Nobody is suggesting that you should tolerate bullying. It is unpleasant and unacceptable.
…bullies often say or do things because they want a reaction from their victim. If you’re not bothered by what they say or do, they may well leave you alone and find a more rewarding target.
Unfortunately, they may also escalate their actions in the hope of getting a reaction.
It is important to understand that sometimes, the safest way of managing other people’s behaviour is to be elsewhere.
4. Look Confident
Nobody asks to be bullied, of course. But some people may look like easier targets, perhaps because they already look a bit vulnerable.
Research shows that people who walk and stand confidently are much less likely to be attacked. If you are feeling a bit vulnerable, make sure that you stand up straight, put back your shoulders and stride out confidently. This will have two effects:
- It will make you look more confident, which will make you less likely to become a victim of bullying or any other attack; and
- It will, oddly enough, make you feel more confident. The body mirrors the mind, but the mind is also affected by the body.
See our page on Body Language for more about this.
What Happens Next?
With luck and good handling by your school, and by you, these actions should end the bullying.
As a last resort, however, if the bullying does not stop, and it is having an effect on your education or making you miserable, you may be able to change schools. This is something to consider in the longer term, and discuss with your parents.
A Problem Shared…
A problem shared may not quite be a problem halved, but there is no doubt that talking to someone about bullying is the first step towards resolving the situation.
Contrary to what bullies will often try to say, reporting them will NOT make the situation worse. Schools and workplaces do not, and should not, tolerate bullying. Make it easier for them to manage the situation and stamp out bullying by reporting it whenever and wherever it happens.