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Anti-Bullying Week: An opportunity to explore your own behaviour

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Anti-bullying Week 2017 brings along the usual yearly articles on how to spot bullying happening in your surroundings, how to cope with bullying, and who to contact.  However, this week is also a chance to examine your own behaviour and explore your own attitudes.

Unfortunately for modern society, bullying maintains its place as a growing problem in schools, workplaces, and everyday life.  With the number of children ringing Childline in 2016/17 due to bullying amounting to 24,000 (Holly Bentley, 2017), the prevalence of bullying in schools is a deep concern for teachers, parents, and children alike. 

Recent research by Bullying UK Workplace Bullying Conference also concluded that as many as 40% of employees have experienced disrespectful or humiliating behaviour, with 66% of respondents claiming to have witnessed bullying in the workplace.

Widely and necessarily explored issues during this week are strategies for dealing with bullying: who to contact, how to prevent it, and how to cope if you are a victim.

However, less frequently explored are the reasons that lead people to bully in the first place.

This Anti-bullying week, it’s time to take the opportunity to take a look at your own behaviour and increase your awareness of any actions you may partake in that may be – even unconsciously - contributing to the continuing bullying epidemic.

What is bullying?

Though there is no legal definition of bullying, bullying is most often defined as the repetition of behaviours intended to hurt someone emotionally or physically.  Bullying may include teasing, threats, or spreading of rumours, and may occur via social media or person-to-person.  It affects people of all ages, in all situations, but is often directed towards minority groups and vulnerable people.

Stress

Stress, as always, is the leading cause of many psychological problems and often seems unavoidable in the pressures of today’s society.  Frequently ignored are the symptoms of irritability and even aggression produced by stresses in an environment.

Stress is dealt with differently by different people.  One way of dealing with stress is to turn this outward: in the form of anger or being upset.  Often, this may be unconsciously or consciously directed at other people.

If you can identify any situations where you may have directed your stress or frustration onto another person – whether in the form of belittling, teasing, or pressuring them – then it’s time to explore different ways of handling emotions.  Consider talking to friends, family, or professionals about how you’re feeling.  They can help you to find different ways of dealing with stress.  In fact, activities such as yoga, running, painting or learning a musical instrument are some of the best ways to deal with stress.

 

Peer pressure

It may seem tempting to join in with negative behaviour when your friends or peers are acting in a certain way.  Simple teasing, though it may seem light-hearted at the time, can often affect a person’s self-esteem very strongly.  More often than not, people will not blink an eyelid before laughing or joining in with ‘light-hearted’ teasing.  However, next time you feel tempted to join in, consider what effects simple ‘teasing’ may have on a person and re-evaluate your reaction when you find yourself face-to-face with this kind of behaviour.

Don’t be a facilitator

Which leads us to an important point: don’t be a facilitator for bullying.

‘If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.’ – Desmond Tutu

More likely than not, you’ve been put in a position where you’ve been a witness to bullying taking place.  What did you do?  If you didn’t do anything, what should you have done?  Ignoring bullying allows it to continue.  Instead, finding a responsible person for help, or stepping in to show you disagree with the bully’s behaviour, shows that bullying will not be stood for in the community.

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