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    Adult Bullying and How To Deal With It

    Bullying is no longer a thing that only happens to kids at school, it’s become an insidious part of our adult world too, occurring at home, in the work place and online. With the rise of social media it’s even easier for people to sit behind a computer behave in ways our parents would be ashamed of.

    There are different types of bullying and different types of bullies; and bullying can take many forms – physical, verbal, social and of course cyber (online). All forms  of bullying can have a severe impact on the person being bullied and sometimes even causes long term damage (physical and/or emotional).

    Bullying can be overt (out in the open) or covert (hidden from public view). Covert bullying is harder for those not directly involved to see what is occurring. This can be distressing for the person being bullied – will they be believed if they tell someone?

    Types of  Bullying

    1. Physical - as it suggests, this involves unwelcome physical contact - usually in the form of hitting, kicking, punching, shoving, damaging property, stealing and so on.
    2. Verbal - name calling, insults, derogatory remarks, verbal abuse. It is very easy for verbal bullying to escalate from petty name calling into a full scale attack.
    3. Social - this usually occurs behind someones back and can be referred to as covert bullying, with  the goal being to harm someone's social reputation, degrade them, cause them upset and even humiliation. 
    4. Cyber (online) - can be overt or covert (ie in public or behind the scenes). It involves using digital technologies, social media, private messages, emails, texts, websites and other online platforms.

    Types of Bullies 

    Being bullied is awful and I have experienced my fair share as both a child and an adult. I have spent a lot of time thinking about this and trying to understand what drives this behaviour (in adults) and I have come to the conclusion there are basically two types of bully:

    1. The type that knows what they are doing and they enjoy it.
    2. The ignorant type who has no clue they are in fact a bully but they behave in atrocious ways that cause distress in others.

    The second type of bully, is in my opinion far more dangerous as they are unaware of their behaviour and how it impacts others.

    They come from a place of indignant righteousness and they don’t make any effort to understand how what they say and do impacts someone else. Why you ask? I am not sure,  but I know one thing for certain, they really just don't care.

    Don't get me wrong, neither are much fun to deal with.. but at least when someone is AWARE of how their behaviour affects others, then there is a chance they can change it – which is why the 'mean but aware' bully actually has more chance of becoming a decent human being. They CAN change if  they want to. 

    Without awareness, the second type of bully will simply go through life continuing to harass, demean and insult those they come into contact with and probably not even realise the devasting effect their behaviour has on those who have the misfortune of dealing with them.  

    This type of bully believes they are always right, that you are always wrong and they can exert their dominance or opinion on you how they see fit. They do not yet have the self awareness required to take on board how their behaviour can be so damaging to those around them.

    How to Deal With Bullies

    Here are some general tips for dealing with both types of bullies.

    1. If it is online, do not reply or engage. Remember that saying “don’t feed the troll”.  As much as you may want to, don’t attack back - you may want to, but chances are it will just make things worse. Block them – email, phone, social media. 
    2. Talk to someone you trust – a friend, parent, spouse, family member. Or if you are young person, you might choose a teacher.  The simple act of telling someone you trust can bring a lot of comfort.
    3. Keep evidence – screen shots, text messages, emails. Write down notes after any interaction including time, date, where you were, what happened and what was said. Keep records in case you need them later. Were there witnesses? Ask if they would mind vouching for you if necessary.
    4. Report it. If you are being bullied online you are in most cases able to report it.  You can also ring Netsafe 0508 NETSAFE (0508 638 723) to get advice. If you believe you are at risk of immediate harm ring the Police. The Harmful Digital Communications Act helps people dealing with online bullying, abuse and harassment.
    5. Remind yourself that the bully is the one with the problem and  not you.  If it helps, try feeling sorry for them. They must be very insecure in themselves to behave in this way.
    6. Stick up for others. If you witness bullying, don’t be silent. We all need to stand up and speak out. By looking out for and supporting each other we can make a difference.

    You are not weak if you reach out and ask for help. Everyone deserves to feel safe at work, home, school and online. No one wants to be subjected to unfounded criticism, harassment or abuse.

    Resources and Phone Numbers


    1. Netsafe
    2. Dealing with bullying PDF from mentalhealth.org.nzDealing with bullying PDF from mentalhealth.org.nz

    Phone Numbers:

    1. NETSAFE - free advice about cyber issues 0508 NETSAFE (0508 638 723)
    2. WHATSUP - phone support for kids 0800 942 8787
    3. Parent's Legal Information Line (PLINFO) - free advice for parents and/or carers 0800 499 488

    This blog was written by someone who has been bullied. 

    Do you have tips for dealing with bullies? Please add them in the comments below.

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