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How to Respond to Verbal Bullying

The art of using assertiveness and compassion

I recently received some commentary regarding a post about bullying I wrote in October of 2012.  To be specific, the first author seemed to suggest that the techniques I suggested don't work effectively, if at all. The second latest author seemed to suggest that confronting the bully only works in public. I believe that confronting the bully works with or without an audience. When you confront bullying, you are not trying to make the bully a better person, you are simply taking a stand without resorting bullying yourself.

These two new commentaries then inspired me to make a video to demonstrate how the technique I teach to stop bullying work. I was initially tempted to use some of my teenage clients to demonstrate the technique, but the issue of confidentiality came up. So I decided to use myself as an example, and despite the poor lighting quality of the video (wouldn’t happen again) I believe the message came across loud and clear. 

My favorite and most effective technique to teach my clients for how to respond to bullying is verbal judo. For parents whose children routinely experience physical assaults in school, it's your job to intervene and pull your children out of such a hostile environment. Being repeatedly exposed to physical assaults leads to PTSD, even for kids who are pretty good at defending themselves. I have worked with adolescent males from all socioeconomic backgrounds, mostly in therapeutic boarding settings, and I can write here that a good school is one that has a zero policy tolerance for violence. In positions of leaderships I have held, I have been known to bring to a halt all activities for the day, if I felt I wasn't getting the complete story regarding a physical altercation. Months later, even the aggressor would come and thank us, for our relentlessness in helping to maintain a safe environment for he and his peers.

Now when it comes to verbal insults, that's a different story, it's not that I condone kids insulting one another, but I believe in teaching young people how to practice assertiveness and compassion for self and others. Assertiveness and compassion is a tough combination to master if you believe that others are supposed to be nice to you, the combination is even next to impossible to master if you further believe that those who are not nice to you should get in trouble. The mentality to master is one of humility. So instead of expecting others to be nice to you, you recognize that you really do prefer that others be nice to you and that you are powerless over how others behave towards you. This mentality leads to feelings of gratitude when others are nice to you.

Please keep in mind, that when it comes to physical aggression, I believe the aggressors should be held fully accountable. In the future, I plan to write extensively on how to respond to threats of violence and physical violence.

This is the link to the video.

All comments, agreeable or otherwise are most appreciated in either the psychology today comments section or the youtube comments section.

Ugo is a psychotherapist and owner of Road 2 Resolutions, a private professional counseling practice located in Tucson AZ. He is also the author of Anger Management 101- Taming the Beast Within