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Overcoming Bullying- in workplace and in life

Almost everyone had the experience of being bullied or belittled. Bullies exist in school- we thought that we have escaped them but these people come back in the form of the boss, co-workers and even in our personal relationships.

But the fact is, bullies are just insecure and fearful people who try to hide behind a fierce and tough mask. Usually they come from an environment of lack- whether it is due to lack of material wealth where they had to fight their way for, and/or due to lack of love (divorcing parents, busy parents with no time for them, etc). Deep down, they crave for attention, love and acceptance like everyone else. And they try to obtain it through their own misguided ways by raising their voice, belittling others or pushing others around- physically or emotionally.

Not all bullies appear physically strong and ready for physical fights. They can come in any form and with slightly different modus operandi. They can be the manager with the huge beer belly who belittles you in meetings and coerce other managers to joint in- and the others, out of fear for their ricebowl had no choice but to get involved.

The worst thing you can do when you find yourself being bullied or being put down repeatedly is to keep quiet and bear with it. Talking and cursing about the person with your friends and family helps only to a certain extend. It does not solve your problem but at least can help you let go of some of the pressure.

It is equally unfortunate that studies of mind-body relationship had shown that people who allowed themselves to be bullied throughout their lives are more susceptible to develop cancer. Therefore, if you find that bullies repeatedly enter your life, you have to learn to deal with it head on- complaining to your friends about it will not solve your problems.

Being assertive and stand up for yourself

You must learn to be more assertive and stand up to yourself. Being assertive does not mean that you are aggressive. When you are assertive, you have the courage to look the bully straight in the eye and tell him/her that the request is not reasonable, and the reasons why you are not able to do it. Make sure you keep your cool and don’t lose your temper- because if you lose your temper, you lose the battle.

Before you can do that, you need to address your worst fears logically. You could have been fearful that by standing up to yourself, you would be either fired or managed out. Due to legal implications, most companies will not fire an employee suddenly but there’s a way of making a ‘targeted’ employee’s life so miserable that he/she would usually resign voluntarily.

What you need to do is really sit down in a quiet place in your home and go through the possible worst case scenarios and your strategies of dealing with them:

Should you be fired from your job, what other alternatives do you have?

Do you have a second income or enough savings to live on while looking for another job?

Do you always wanted to be an entrepreneur, a freelancer, open your own business, etc but never got around to do it? Well, perhaps a kick in the butt by being managed out would all you need to take that leap.

Once you put all these little demons that are lurking in the fringes of your mind to rest, it’s time to focus your attention with dealing with the bully. Tell yourself, there’s nothing to fear.

Usually, the bully may be shocked and then resort to turning everyone else against you through slander and intentionally twisting your words.

You can attempt to justify with others but if no one’s believing you, then give it a little time for the whole thing to die down naturally. Things get worse if you give it strength through defending and justifying yourself. If you are calm, it’s hard for the issue to be prolonged because it takes 2 hands to clap. And, if no one believes you, it’s okay to be alone– after all, what’s the worth of selling part of your soul and dignity just to please those who are not worth pleasing.

In no time, the next office drama will catch other people’s attention. After all, life does not revolve around us- and it’s a fact that most people are more self absorbed in themselves than in others.

Therefore, you must be strong and resilient when faced with this situation. If you do not have these qualities, this situation could be a potential catalyst that pushes you to develop these qualities.

Once you do it a few times, the bully would back down. Bullies always search for an easy target- a potential victim that has “please bully me and make me feel unworthy!” written all over the forehead. If you are not that person, and display no fear (at least on the surface), you would, in turn make the bully fearful.

After all, deep down inside, bullies have lots of fear and insecurities in them.

If you understand this, you may even begin to feel genuinely sorry for them. These people are so misguided and their hearts had hardened so much that they had to resort to such degrading tactics to get what they thought they want. Some of them actually do develop heart problems– an indicative that they’re so disconnected with themselves (I am not saying that all people with heart blockages are like that- but some are due to that).

When you genuinely have compassion and acceptance for others, your heart would soften- and it would show in your facial expression, behavior and speech. Who knows, with time, you can also begin to touch that bully’s heart and turn him/her into your friend.

Personal experience

Before you start to tell me that it’s not possible, I want to let you know that the above is shared from my own personal experience. A bully did come into my life- and I was pushed into a corner. I had to deal with skill and in the proccess, I learn to overcome some limitations in myself.

Initially I was so angry with her that I gave her back the same treatment as she gave to me. The situation became very hostile.

I am not sure why, but one day I sensed the deep suffering and self hatred that she had in her heart. Not being fortunate to have good mentors and sufficient guidance in her life, this poor but extremely intelligent girl had landed herself in the life condition that she is in now. Life is totally not the way she had wanted- therefore the bullying others seemed to be the only way she could release that frustration inside.

Suddenly, instead of being angry, I felt really sorry for her- and I told myself, we cannot change the world, but we can change how we respond to them. I also counted my blessings because I know that without sufficient guidance and mentors appearing in my life, I would end up many times worse than her. So I decided to stop reacting to her anger and started to treat her with more kindness.  And I also don’t expect anything in return from her.

It had not been easy- in doing that, I pushed my own limits. I was kind but firm.  You need to constantly balance being kind but not being a pushover. When need be, you must be able to say “no” to an unreasonable request.  Once you accomodate, you have to be prepare to do it all the time- so it’s better to politely decline something that you don’t want to do.

I told myself, I’ve learned so much about kindness and compassion- it’s time to practice on hostile and people that we dislike. I also learned to focus on her good points instead of bad points.

Then a strange thing happened- when I responded with kindness, it touches her heart after a while (that proves that everyone of us has some form of goodness in our hearts- if not, we’ll be long dead). Eventually that brought up positive qualities that actually she’d always had, but were suppressed due to her environment. This did not happen overnight- it took months.

Today, this person has become my friend- even though not a close friend but we are on very friendly terms. I am thankful that our paths crossed- because had it not been for me, I would not have been able to overcome my fears, know when I need to stand up for myself and have more compassion towards others (I had no problem being nice to those I like but it is through her that I could find in my heart to forgive and be kind to the hostile and back stabbers).

Endnote:

Here’s a postcard that is posted on the blog Postsecret.com– it states the remorse felt by a woman who used to bully someone else when she was young:

trichotillomania-urgetopullouthair

Note: PostSecret is an ongoing community art project where people
mail in their secrets anonymously on one side of a postcard.

Definition of trichotillomania as per Wikipedia:

Trichotillomania (TTM, also known as trichotillosis,[1] or more commonly as trich) is defined as “hair loss from a patient’s repetitive self-pulling of hair”[2] and is characterized by the repeated urge to pull out scalp hair, eyelashes, facial hair, nose hair, pubic hair, eyebrows or other body hair, sometimes resulting in noticeable bald patches.

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  • William Tzen June 24, 2010, 6:16 pm

    human need to learn on how to forget and forgiven….

    life is short…its not worth to keep the angry or revenge

    I had encounter sexual harassment when I was kid on that time, in year 5/6 primary school student .

    there will be a time to let go, and moved on. God will accompany us.

    • Yin June 25, 2010, 9:24 am

      Thanks for sharing your experience. You are right, it’s not worth getting angry.

  • William Tzen June 25, 2010, 9:59 am

    ya, its all about let go and moved on.

    God knows how to handle the pervert.

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