I recently completed a six-week anti-bullying class. The class met once a week and consisted of a group of people with disabilities like me. Our instructor led us in discussions regarding the issue of bullying, how it applies to us, and what we can do to prevent it from happening to us and to others. Through these lessons and class discussions, I have uncovered a wealth of information on bullying which has greatly broadened my understanding of this subject.
It was firmly established at the beginning of the class that a typical bullying situation revolves around four types of people: the bully or aggressor; the victim or “bullied”; the authority figure, who can be a teacher, parent, or other person in a position of influence who can prevent the situation from escalating further by positively intervening; and the bystander, a person “watching the wreck” who could intervene, go for help, or simply take no action at all. There are also different forms of bullying including physical, mental, emotional, and psychological. The bully may have different motivations for what he does including lack of self-confidence, a desire to demonstrate toughness, or mere habit.
The class as a group discussed strategies for dealing with bullying situations in our lives should we encounter them. We were taught that there is an effective three-part plan to stem bullying: have knowledge of the bullying situation and identify all of the participants, intervene in the situation and help to put a stop to it if one is able, and find an authority figure to help if the situation is escalating. It is essential to remain calm and react in a positive manner. Expressing self-confidence, compassion, and rationality help to get the problem under control.
We also learned about another strategy which illustrates a way to peacefully intervene in a bullying situation. It uses the letters in the word “assert” to represent each part of the strategy and to demonstrate the assertive attitude needed to carry this plan out. The first letter, “a,” is for “attention,” the first “s” for three words, “simple,” “short,” and “soon,” the second “s” for “specific behavior,” “e” for “effect on me,” the “r” for “response,” and “t” for “terms.” In a nutshell, when confronting a bully, one should, through brief statements, address all of the relevant details of the problem at hand and the consequences of the bully’s actions. This method provides an opportunity for a person to peaceably present to a bully all of the details of their hurtful actions and give them a chance to change their mind before further harm can be done.
We further learned about different statements we could use when confronted with bullying problems. Many of them take the form of “I statements” which place emphasis on the speaker rather than the person being spoken to; this places less pressure on the bully so that she may respond more peaceably to others. Many such statements begin with the words “I feel,” though others do not, but all describe the feelings of the speaker concerning an aspect of the situation at hand, express mutual understanding on the speaker’s part of the other person’s situation, and emphasize the consideration of more peaceful, productive methods of achieving what all concerned parties want. One example of this type of statement is: “I feel awkward when you tease me about being short. Please stop saying that about me.”
We also discussed various other topics during the many weeks of the class regarding bullying. One of them was the merits of utilizing humor to ease tension among people; I feel this approach could prove very effective based on the class’s role-playing skits for preventing bullying situations. Another important point was that people should travel in groups to avoid finding themselves alone and vulnerable, especially in dangerous areas. One last very important point made was that if a situation becomes too intense for one to handle, he should move away from it as quickly as possible and find help. In the end, I believe I gained much from attending these anti-bullying classes. I became more familiar with an unknown area of life, learned some very useful methods of diplomacy, and met a lot of new friends in the process. I realize now that bullying is a very big problem: one that all of us need to be aware of and guard against.