Dealing with Bullies

I was a small, skinny kid for most of my childhood, which meant I occasionally had to deal with bullies. My mom had a little twist on the Golden Rule she instilled in me at a very early age, which helped me deal with these bullies.

“If they hit you,” she advised me, “hit them back twice.”

The best way to deal with a bully is to punch him in the mouth. Given that physical violence is generally (maybe even appropriately) frowned upon, I later realized that there is an equally effective technique that amounts to the same thing: Find his source of power, and neuter him.

Hysterically expressing moral outrage, however valid, is a waste of energy. It exhausts you and your allies while feeding the bully and his supporters. I’m not suggesting that you suppress these feelings. Find ways to channel them into things that the bully cares about — taking away his status, his power, his audience.

Turning his audience means that you have to take the time to understand them and be disciplined in how you communicate with them. If you listen, you might be surprised to learn that you actually have common ground. Put everything else aside, and focus on that common ground.

Finally and most importantly, have the backs of the people you care about and who care about you. Solidarity is strength.

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