So far we've looked at the different ways in which bullying can manifest itself and discussed some options for damage control once it starts. Some people however present more of a target to bullies than others. In this post, we'll look at some things you can do to reduce your chances of being bullied.
Like many aggressors, bullies often have an intense "dislike for the unlike". This means that if there is something about you that is different, they will seize upon it as an excuse to bully.
If you're an aspie, you'll already be fighting an "uphill battle" because NTs can somehow sense our differences within minutes of meeting us. It's mostly to do with our body language and while it's possible to learn how to hide it from others in occasional conversation, there's very little that you can do when you're in constant daily contact with a potential bully.
This means that you'll have to work all the harder to blend in. You shouldn't work against yourself by "trying to be different". I know that it seems to be a matter of expressing your individuality and basic freedoms but you need to set sensible limits. For example; a guy who regularly wears pink shirts in a homophobic school is really "asking for trouble". The same goes for people who regularly have "branded accessories" marked with special interests which aren't necessarily age appropriate.
Having a star wars lunchbox in primary school is cool. It's not so cool to have one in secondary school. You may think that spongebob is the height of culture but constantly talking about him or wearing spongebob apparel is going to get you noticed. Save that stuff for home.
Do your best to blend in and appear "one of the crowd" and you'll attract a lot less attention from bullies.
Don't Lose Your Temper
Bullies love getting a reaction and there's no reaction that thrills them more than a meltdown or a temper-tantrum.
Once a bully has seen that kind of reaction from you, they'll keep trying to provoke "bigger and better" ones and in front of progressively larger groups. As the victim's reputation for outbursts grows, they will attract greater numbers of bullies. Even kids who normally wouldn't be bullies themselves will try to get a reaction.
If you're an aspie, then social anxiety and meltdowns are a part of normal life for you. You probably won't be able to control them entirely but you should be able to detect your triggers and remove yourself from situations. If you're at school, you'll probably need to get your parents to talk to your teachers about the issue to establish a protocol for you to signal an overload and withdrawal condition without drawing undue attention to yourself.
Keep your head. Know your triggers and remove yourself from situations immediately if you feel a meltdown is imminent.
Don't Provoke Bullies
We've all heard the saying; "it won't bite you if you don't annoy it". That's not exactly true of bullies. They'll find you and they'll attack without warning regardless of what you do. What is true however is that if a bully isn't currently attacking you, then stirring them up will certainly cause them to focus on you.
Occasionally, you may find that your bully ends up in a situation where the tables are turned. Perhaps they've had a bad day or something embarrassing has happened to them. You may be burning for revenge but try to resist the urge to get involved. Bullies have good memories and when they're back on top, they're bound to come looking for you.
Just leave the bullies alone. Stay out of their life and you'll significantly reduce their incursions into yours.
Don't Just Defend Yourself - Attack!
I've often heard parents giving their children advice to "hit the bully back" and indeed, assuming you're strong enough to win a physical fight, that often does the trick. Of course, in these situations, you can't hit first or you'll be seen as the agressor.
Bullying usually goes on for a long, long time before it becomes physical and by the time it does, a lot of damage has already been done. For this reason, establishing a good verbal defense is critical.
It's not enough to simply "block" negative comments. You also need to strike back.
Consider this conversation (note: for clarity I've added points in brackets);
Bully: Hey moron! you've got a fat head! (3 points)
Victim: No I haven't (0 points)
Bully: Man, your head is so fat you probably can't get it in the gate. (1 Point)
Victim: I can, I came in the gate this morning (0 points)
Bully: Aw gee, for someone with such a big fat head, you're so dumb. (3 points).
I've allocated points on the following basis;
1 Point for unexpected attack.
1 Point per attack word
You'll notice that the victim has wasted his lines by simply defending himself (denying allegations). The bully hasn't been attacked at all.
Now, consider a different exchange.
Bully: Hey moron! you've got a fat head! (3 points)
Victim: Aw shut up you stupid clown, go bother someone who cares (3 points)
Bully: Man, your head is so fat you probably can't get it in the gate. (1 point)
Victim: Yeah well at least I don't have an ugly mug like yours or a pathetic and stupid personality to go with it. (3 points)
Bully: Well, your head is fat. (1 point)
Victim: Oh quit it with the stupid head fixation and grow up you sad little sack of camel dung (5 points)
If your exchanges go this way, the bully will soon leave you alone.
Parents; If your child is being bullied at school, you might want to role-play these sorts of comebacks until they're natural responses.
A neutral defence is useless against bullies. Always make your verbal responses count.
Be Less Visible
There's an old saying "Out of sight, out of mind" which means simply that if the bully doesn't see you, they'll find some other victim instead. I'm not suggesting that you hide from the bully but simply that you try to reduce your interactions and ensure that you're not near the bully when they have free time.
Become part of a group
Another good saying; "There's safety in numbers". Bullies prefer to attack when the odds are in their favour. Find a group, any group - a nerd group is fine - and stick with it. If you've got other people with you, the bully is more likely to decide that the risk is too great and leave you alone.
Believe in yourself
Bullies will say lots of hurtful things but they're usually just lies aimed at throwing you off balance. The bully wants to destroy your self esteem. You need to spend time thinking about your good points and work hard to boost your own self esteem. This will only happen if you can believe in yourself. Talk to people who care about you and ask them for their opinions - don't just take the bully's lying words to heart.
Don't believe anything a bully says.
Get help when necessary
There may come a time when you feel that "you simply can't take it any more". Don't let things get to this point. Seek help and stand up for your rights. If you've reported a bullying incident and nothing has been done to correct it, then go to a higher authority. If you're a child and your parents don't seem to understand then see the school social worker or refuse to go to school. You need to ensure that they understand how serious the problem is.
Don't bottle your feelings up. That's how people explode.
If you find yourself contemplating self-harm or taking weapons to school then you need to get your support network involved.
Don't stay at inappropriate places
Some places are home to large numbers of bullies. Some schools not only tolerate bullies but seem to actively encourage it. The same goes for some sports teams and social clubs. These places won't react well to allegations of bullying and may even react by making life harder for the victim. Don't try to fight a losing battle. There are other schools, other clubs and other workplaces. Look after number one (yourself) and protect your valuable self-esteem.
Don't put up with it, just leave - and if you still want to take action, do it from outside the group. This could be in the form of a letter to a newspaper about a school which encourages bullying or it could be as simple as joining another sports team and delivering a crushing defeat to your ex-bully team.
If you can't seem to get anything done about bullying, then get out. Don't stay in a harmful environment.
We'll look at the bullies side of the story and conclude this series.