Written by DiveThru Team
Reviewed by Elyce Mandich LCSW
5 Tips On How To Deal With Bullies At Any Age
Published Jun 11th, 2021 & updated on Jun 11th, 2021
When we think of bullies, maybe we automatically think of that mean kid on the playground who pushed us off the monkey bars and called us names, like “stupid head.” Ooh, burn. Kids have the BEST insults, right? It probably still really hurt at the time, though!
That pain is so valid! AND it’s so important to keep in mind that bullies don’t just go away when we grow up and leave those playgrounds behind. Nopeee! Unfortunately, they’re still everywhere. Aside from bullying in school, there are our sports teams, social circles and workplaces. Bullies cross our personal boundaries and try to overpower us because, well…hurt people will hurt people. Bullying rarely ever has anything to do with you, and everything to do with them. Of course, this doesn’t excuse their behaviour, but it can help explain it. And, stating the obvious here, but bullying in any form can have some seriously negative impacts on our mental wellbeing.
Let’s dive through the different types of bullying and how to deal with bullies (if you’re unfortunate to cross paths with one!).
Types Of Bullying
So, since you’re not on that playground anymore…what even is bullying and what does it look like as you get older? ‘Cause chances are, you aren’t getting pushed off those monkey bars any time soon. At least, we really hope not! There are actually a few different types of bullying, so let’s get into those and what they can look like in your life.
This form of bullying includes hitting, tripping, kicking, punching, slapping and pretty much any physical contact that is violent and unwanted. Physical attacks are what most people might think of when they think of bullies, but it looks kinda different when you leave elementary school. Adult bullies can still harm you physically, but they might also stalk you, steal from you or damage your property. They might even threaten to harm people in your life in order to hurt you. Big yikes.
Verbal bullying is all about words. Not nice or super uplifting words, obviously. These words are meant to put you down and make you feel small, like a teensy lil’ bug under their shoe. It can be name-calling, insults, or any off-handed statements that are suuuper hurtful and uncalled for. This form of bullying can also include spreading rumours, gossip, or lies about you to harm your reputation and ruin your relationships. Yeppp, it’s nasty stuff!
Okay, this is one that’s probs less talked about since it can be kinda…discrete? It’s less obvious than calling someone a name or shoving them, but it’s still suuuper hurtful and unfair. This form of bullying (also called emotional bullying) is just downright MEAN. It’s all about purposefully ostracizing someone by being socially manipulative AF. By spreading lies about you, ruining your relationships and breaking others’ trust in you, these bullies will turn your peers against you to make sure you’re excluded from the group. HOW CRUEL.
Ugh, this is all about bullying someone based on their race, ethnicity, religion, beliefs or sexual orientation. It can also involve any other type of bullying: physical, verbal, social, sexual, or cyberbullying and is meant to single someone out for their difference. So basically, it’s an act of discrimination and can even lead to severe hate crimes in the worst cases. WTF…we have no words.
This form of bullying involves humiliating or harming a person in a sexual way. It can look like sexual name-calling, making inappropriate comments about your appearance or sexual development or sexual activity, slut-shaming and even revenge porn. Also, vulgar gestures, unwanted touching, or propositioning fall under sexual bullying. Sexting can even lead to bullying when it involves sharing someone’s nudes without permission to mock that person or violate their privacy, and it falls under harassment. Actually, many forms of sexual bullying can lead to harassment which is sooo scary and sad to think about.
The effects of cyberbullying are no joke. Basically, when someone uses any form of technology to harass, threaten or humiliate you, that’s considered cyberbullying. They could spam you with nasty texts or DMs, post embarrassing photos of you without your permission, make a private hate page about you on Instagram, or form a group chat to mock you. Sometimes cyberbullying can be especially terrible when it’s from someone anonymous, so you’re not even sure who’s targeting you. These types of bullies feel safe behind a screen, but their victims feel anything BUT safe — especially since we all use our tech pretty much 24/7!
How To Deal With Bullies
Okay, so now that you know what bullying can look like, but you’re probably still wondering how to deal with bullies! Every situation looks a lil’ bit different, but just know that you do NOT have to just “let it go” and hope the bullying stops on its own. Bullies will continue to hurt people as long as they can, and that’s just the sad reality. We totally get it though — dealing with a bully is not easy by any means! If you’re dealing with a bully, we support you and want you to know that you’re not alone in this. So, let’s have a look at some ways you can handle bullies!
1. Consider Your Bully’s Motivation
Bullying is NEVER okay, so that’s defs not what we’re saying here! But considering what your bully’s motivation is can help you take their actions or words less personally. Maybe they’re upset you got a big promotion over them, so they’ve turned to bullying out of spite. They might feel like you’re more ‘liked’ than them in your social circle, so they try to turn your besties against you. Or maybe you’re dating someone they had a big crush on and they’re super jelly of your relationship. Heck, there might not even BE a real reason other than they just like to be a jerk. But, at the end of the day, there’s no valid excuse for being a bully!
2. Talk To Someone You Trust
Don’t hold all these emotions inside. You might think you’re better off just putting your head down and trying to ignore the hurt, buuut you can only avoid it for so long before you either combust or crumble. Just so ya know, you deserve to feel content and safe in the space you’re in, alwaysss. So telling someone you trust that you’re dealing with workplace bullying, bullying in school, or bullying anywhere else is super important for your mental wellbeing. We know it’s hard, but confiding in someone you know will support you is a good idea. They’ll be there for you every step of the way and make you feel wayyy less alone!
3. Document Everything
Every snide remark in the lunchroom. Every rumour that gets back to you. Every aggressive DM. Every instance of unwanted physical touch or violence. Make sure to keep a detailed record of each contact you have with your bully. Take photos of bruises, screenshot messages and write down their nasty comments. It’s also a good idea to let that trustworthy person in your life know about these instances so they can be a witness for you. It’s important to document the bullying in case it doesn’t stop, or it escalates, and you need to take it to someone with more power. Most institutions like your school, workplace or extracurricular programs will have processes to deal with bullies, so it helps to have the proof to back your claims!
4. Draw A Line
If you feel safe to do so, draw a line with your bully by confronting them about how they’ve been treating you. Bullies don’t always expect to be stood up to, so sometimes it’s helpful to be firm and address the situation head-on. Is it super terrifying, not to mention uncomfy? Absolutely. But pointing out how shitty and unacceptable they’ve been treating you (get specific) shows them you’ve had enough. BTW, you get to decide how you wanna go about this… Alone? Face to face? In-person, but with a friend at your side? In a DM or email, which can also be shown as proof later if there’s pushback? Totally up to you. Having a set plan in place, and knowing what you wanna say and where you wanna say it can help ease up those nerves before you start this big convo!
5. Find Help
If you’ve done all you can and nothing has changed, or you just don’t feel comfortable or safe to confront your bully on your own, then it’s time to call in reinforcements. And by reinforcements, we mean someone who has the power to put a stop to this bullying through some a-c-t-i-o-n! Schools have policies. Workplaces have HR. No matter where you are, those systems are in place and meant to protect you. So, don’t feel ashamed to ask for help! You do NOT have to suffer in silence or “take the high road.” Fuuuck that.
We hope these tips helped you learn how to deal with bullies. We totally understand that every situation is different, and so are the threats that bullies make to their victims. And, some cases are way more extreme than others! If you’re being harassed, stalked, or threatened you have every right to file a police report or take legal action. In these serious situations, law enforcement and the legal system will best help you navigate how to deal with bullies that are dangerous. Take care of yourself, friend. Your wellbeing should be your #1 priority!