As parents and teachers, we talk to our children about bullies and how to deal with them. When we think of bullies, we usually think about someone like Scut Farkus, the bully in the movie, “A Christmas Story.” Or you might think about the kid in your gym class who punched you when the gym teacher wasn’t looking. In my junior high gym class, there were a couple bullies who would run by and steal your clothes while you were taking the mandatory shower, and then hide them in a remote part of the building, never to be seen again.
As a child, we assumed that bullies don’t grow up. We were wrong. Bullies are out there, now in their adult form. In his article, “The 5 Most Common Types of Adult Bullying,” Preston Ni M.S.B.A. paints a different picture of bullying today, and I’m sad to say that yes indeed, bullies do grow up, and they are not pretty or nice. They are called “adults,” though their actions do not reflect the behavior we would assume they could be capable of in their day to day lives.
I was bullied a lot as a child. I mean, A LOT. One of the most common forms of bullying I have seen as an adult and witnessed first-hand to this day is Passive-aggressive or covert bullying. This is a less-frequently mentioned form of bullying. With many bullies, you can see them coming because they are quick to make their intimidating presence known. A passive-aggressive or covert bully, however, behaves appropriately on the surface, but “takes you down with subtlety.*
Examples of passive-aggressive and covert bullying include negative gossip, negative joking at someone’s expense, sarcasm, condescending eye contact, facial expression or gestures, mimicking to ridicule, deliberately causing embarrassment and insecurity, the invisible treatment, social exclusion, professional isolation, and deliberately sabotaging someone’s well-being, happiness, and success. Examples may also include a small group gathering behind a closed door, leaving out that one single individual who can clearly see you talking behind his or her back and know they have been left out of the discussion on purpose.
Many of us probably remember a time as a child when our names were left off the invitation list to a birthday party. Jump ahead 20-30 years when a group of your peers gathered together for a meal, celebration, or a similar party. Everyone who should have been invited was, EXCEPT FOR THAT ONE PERSON, time after time. It still happens!
The digital age has brought us a new era of instant communication, and with it, cyber bullying. It ruins peoples lives… people of ALL ages. According to Facebook, “Cyberbullying is the use of technology to harass, threaten, embarrass, or target another person. Online threats and mean, aggressive, or rude texts, tweets, posts, or messages all count. So does posting personal information, pictures, or videos designed to hurt or embarrass someone else.
As adults, we should be grown up enough to not be the attacker, but to notice when others are attacked and provide them with compassion and friendship.
Many school districts are including lessons about anti-bullying at all age levels. Perhaps it is appropriate for classes to be made available for adults as well. What do you think?
*from Preston Ni, M.S.B.A.