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How to Deal with Bullying

5 Smart Ways to Deal with a Bully

In the past, many people regarded bullying as a rite of passage for young people in school environments. These days, however, we are beginning to understand that bullying can have serious consequences for both children and adults. Since October is National Bullying Prevention Month, it's a good time to consider ways you can combat bullying at school or in the workplace.

Why Do Some People Bully?

In many cases, bullies are looking for attention. In others, they may be looking for ways to make themselves feel powerful or more important. Still other people view bullying as a way to become more popular or get things they want.

In many cases, bullies come from families that involve a lot of anger or shouting. It's not uncommon for bullies to repeat actions that have been done to them. In fact, more often than not, the typical bully will have been bullied by parents or older siblings.

In many instances, bullies understand that their actions are hurting someone else. That said, this isn't always the case. Whatever the reasons for their actions, bullies will typically target someone they can overpower either physically or emotionally. They might pick on someone who appears physically weak or who tends to get upset easily. Some bullies may also lash out at peers who seem more fortunate either physically, financially or intellectually. Still others simply target victims who seem different in the slightest of ways.

How Can You or Your Child Respond?

While most people associate bullying with children, adults can also find themselves targeted by bullies. Whatever your age, there are certain strategies you can employ to combat a bully. These include:

Project confidence. Bullies draw their satisfaction from seeing others cower. Without this payoff, they tend to lose interest and move on to another target. Even if it seems like you have to project a false sense of confidence, it's best to stand tall and speak with a self-assured voice. Instead of counterpunching with words or actions that might escalate things, simply behave in a calm, firm, courteous way.

Stay connected. Bullies enjoy making their victims feel alone, isolated and powerless. You or your child can reclaim some power by making and maintaining connections with friends or supportive adults.

Ignore the bully. While it can be difficult, it's generally best to ignore bullies when possible. Again, the bully is looking for a reward for his or her actions. If you don't respond or seem unaffected by the bully's behavior, there will be no reason for the bullying to continue.

Stay calm and unemotional. When bullying can't be ignored, it's generally best to address the bully with assertive, but unemotional responses. This lets the bully know that you do not intend to be victimized and will not patronize the person's behavior. Calm, assertive behavior also shows that you don't necessarily pose a challenge, while anger is more likely to give the bully the attention or sense of power he or she craves.

Stay consistent. If the bully knows his or her behavior will always elicit a boring, undesirable response, there will be no reason to continue. Do your best to let the bully know he or she simply cannot get under your skin.

When Should You Ask for Help?

When bullying becomes severe or dangerous, it's best to reach out for help. If a bully is physically threatening you or your child, talk to teachers, administrators or employers and ask them to intervene. If bullying causes destructive emotional or psychological pain, consider talking to a therapist who can help you better understand your feelings and come up with strategies for coping with social conflict.

You should also consult the federal government's Stop Bullying resource to learn about recent state and local laws designed to prevent bullying and protect children.

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