Bullying: Saying no to being mean

This week I’ve mused over the verbal and indeed written abuse I’ve received as an adult. Usually because of something I’ve said, whether in an article or over coffee. I admit there have been times when it has been somewhat deserved, but other times… not so much. As such I’m fairly thick skinned, but it made me wonder how I’d cope as an adolescent today, bombarded with globalisation and social networking at every turn.

I don’t like people being mean to me. There, I said it. Actually I don’t like people being mean full stop — because however much you brace yourself, however much you expect it, it hurts.

This year’s Annual Bullying Survey is one of the most comprehensive reports of its kind. It says that “many young people may be bullying others without particularly knowing or acknowledging the fact that their behaviour is not acceptable.”

Everyone knows that bullying and harassment are wrong, but what if said person’s perception, whether through denial or ignorance, doesn’t believe what they are doing is a problem? That’s where everyone else comes in. We cannot expect such behaviour to go away on its own, we cannot expect someone else will show them the light.

I’m sure we’ve all witnessed someone on the receiving end at some point or another, but what did you do?

As a parent, bullying and lying are the two things that we will never abide by in the home. My daughter went through a stage of laughing and poking fun at her brother last year because he wanted to wear dresses to nursery school (which of course he did, a piece of fabric does not denote one’s gender), and I sat down and asked her why mummy was upset by her actions. By the end of a very frank discussion, my then six-year-old grasped the concept of why it wasn’t acceptable.

It’s not just children and adolescents though, there are plenty of adults who rely on bitter words to converse with others. In either case I feel the solution is the same.

Bullying charity Ditch The Label’s tag-line on their web page is “we like to say no to things”, we need to stand up and make it clear to people that if they have a problem, bullying someone will not solve it.

We must stand up for those who are victimised, whether it was once or the 100th time. Next time you see someone being abusive in your workplace, your school or at home, don’t sit in silence. Talk to the person doing the bullying, or if it’s not safe, talk to someone you trust.

If someone you know has confided in you, don’t just sit back and tell them to ignore it. Help them. Words may not break bones, but the scars they leave can take a lifetime to heal.