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February 2, 2014

I have had much life experience of bullies and bullying behavior, both second and first-hand. And it is something I always strive to avoid myself and to not condone in the people around me.

What I have learned is that much of this behavior is often done unthinkingly. It is only rare cases of people who do it with malicious intent, and those people tend to be much easier to spot in my experience.

To distinguish the bully who does it intentionally from unintentionally you will find out when you confront them about something they have done. If they pause a second then try to squirm out of it, or put the blame elsewhere, or react with a criticism of you. Then they are an intentional bully. If they stop and think a second and have a realisation about their actions then it is more a case of something they were doing unthinkingly.

A third option is an immediate reaction against the person criticising them, as many people are incapable of imagining they could ever be in the wrong. They may even go some way to acting in a way that would support this, to allow themselves to feel justified. But their fundamental problem remains: they react instantly and without thought against any criticism of them. It need not entail bullying, but it often can indirectly. And certainly, the inability to take criticism is a sign of weakness, not strength.

Another kind of bullying that I have experienced is of those who pretend to be friendly, but use that as a launchpad to emotionally manipulate and bully people. For me, if I am friendly with someone it is because I want to be around them. Not because I want to manipulate them or get something from them. So I find this behavior quite difficult to understand. Though I imagine it comes down to some unconscious instinctual predator/prey relationship from our biological history.

Another type of bullying is people who forever refuse to face an issue with a person head on, but always look to deflect from this, and then carry on with talking about a person behind their back. The devils advocate approach. It as if they are attached to negative feelings about people that drive them day in, day out, and the thought of being without those feelings, leaves them fearing a vacuum of non-conflict, non-controversy and boredom.

Through it all there is a pattern. The bully fears a direct confrontation about their actions. They cannot handle this, as it would bring them to an awareness of their actions from anothers perspective. And so would undermine their personal ego. It is an extreme case of ego-attachment that the bully suffers from. And for that, we can have compassion, and feel sorry for them.

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