Bullying is not always as it appears
The fact that bullying occurs in all schools on a regular basis is beyond question. The research says that 10-15% of students say they are bullied on a weekly basis. However, I sometimes wonder what percentage of these students are actually misreading their peers’ behaviour as bullying when this is not what was intended at all.
Australians are known for good-natured teasing often expressed through a put-down of some sort. It can be a way of saying to that person that they belong or that they are thought well of enough for the other to be playful with them. Many nicknames are a classic example of this. Of course, there is a fine-line that can be all too easily crossed when such teasing is said in the wrong way, at the wrong time, by the wrong person. It is all to easy for misunderstandings to occur, especially with text messages, emails, and chat rooms, which do not give the body language and vocal cues.
Young people can also sometimes mis-read difficulty at fitting into a friendship group as deliberate exclusion. On some occasions, no doubt it is. But on others it may simply be the young person feeling self-conscious that is getting in the way of them making easier connections. There is also the reality that they simply will not be able to make friends with everyone. This doesn’t necessarily mean they are being rejected or are not a worthy friend. It does mean they will need to focus their friendship efforts elsewhere.
I have also seen many occasions where young people are both contributing, sometimes inadvertently, but where one has been labelled as a bully. Once the bully word has been used, it tends to evoke a defensive response. It tends to help people feel less hurt if they can accept that they may have both contributed, even if it was by accident and move the focus onto the future. I have also known many young people who are deliberately acting in ways to get another in trouble.
Even when it is quite clear that bullying has occurred, it is more helpful when the targeted student is able to see that the problem is with the bully and to perhaps feel sorry for them. When a kinder or more compassionate way can be found to see the situation, it enables healing to occur.
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Ken Warren BA, M Soc Sc, CSP is a Relationships Specialist who helps teams to perform at their very best.
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