Step One: Document Everything
The first step is to ensure you have proof of any bullying behaviour that is taking place. If the bullying is taking place online or in text screenshot or save a copy on your device that includes the dates and names of all involved. This will provide the “burden of proof” and show how long and the degree of bullying/harassment you have been faced with.
It is important to address specific events when discussing the incident(s), and not using generalizations such as “always” or “never”. Having specific examples will help you explain and address the bully and the person you are seeking help from. Try to address the situation as soon as, or shortly after it occurs.
When you document the incident make sure that your personal record includes the date and time, where it took place (location), name and status (student, staff) of other person involved, a detailed description of what happened, the effect that the incident had, and the names of anyone who saw the incident.
If the bullying incident occurred online it is important to note the date and time, what social media platform it took place on, the name and username of the person, and any other relevant messages. It is important to save the message, make a copy of it or screenshot it, and print it a copy. You can also keep a copy on a USB device, or email a screenshot of it to yourself.
How to take a screenshot:
For newer versions of Android pressing the power button and volume button together will take a screenshot.
For iPhones hold down the sleep/awake button, and then press and release the home button.
For Windows phones hold the volume-up button and power button at the same time.
For PC hold the Window’s Logo key and PrintScr or PrintScn
For Mac hold Command, Shift, and 3 down. A capture click will sound and your screenshot will appear with the title “Screen Shot [Date, Time]” on your desktop.
Step Two: Understand your Feelings
Part A: Understanding
It is important when dealing with a bullying situation you first understand how you feel and how severe the situation is. There is a difference between constant, ongoing bullying, a one-time incident, and being upset by constructive criticism. To determine this there are some questions to ask yourself:
- How severe was the incident?
- Was it a one time thing?
- Was it constructive criticism?
- Did the person have a bad day and they brought that negative energy to you?
While no kind of bullying is acceptable, you must still assess the situation. Differing opinions, normal disagreements, constructive criticism or feedback, or enforcing rules, policies and procedures are not bullying. It is bullying if the incident made you feel hurt, and isolated then you should talk to the person and describe the situation.
Part B: Using “I” Statements
To help understand your feelings use “I” statements. To form “I” statements try to describe your reaction to the other person’s behaviour. You want to form a clear expression on how you feel. It is a way to help describe the behaviour.
For example to express your feelings:
- I felt hurt when…
- I feel disrespected when…
- When I’m yelled at I feel…
- When I’m treated this way I feel…
You can also use “I” statements to help understand what you want to happen:
- I need….
- I would like…
- I would feel better if….
This will help you understand if you are mildly irritated or if this was extremely hurtful. There are different levels of bullying and it is important to understand how this has affected you before proceeding. In situations like this the only person you can control is yourself, and it is best to fully understand yourself before proceeding. Was it an off-handed comment you did not appreciate or was it a hateful/hurtful comment that made you feel endangered?
For example: Joe and Anne are in the same class. Joe does not like Anne and thinks she’s a “prude” because she declined a date with him. He posts a tweet saying, “Anne is such a prude she’s basically #Amish”, and “In class with #VirginMary”.
Anne needs to find out how she feels about this. So she asks herself:
- How do I feel?
- Do I feel this is ongoing?
- Do I feel this is hurtful?
- Do I want to go online?
- Am I embarrassed by these actions?
- Do I feel isolated?
What Joe is doing is cyber bullying and Anne will have a couple of options including confronting him and blocking him on Twitter.
Use the “I” statements discussed above to write down and describe how the action made you feel. If you are planning on confronting the bully or seeking assistance it is important you have a clear understanding of what you want to say. By determining how you feel, and keeping documentation of the actions of the bully then you will be able to be clear, and specific. You want to describe the behaviours being as objective and specific as possible using the facts.
Part C: Context
Another thing to remember when trying to understand how you feel is looking at the context. While it does not excuse harmful behaviour, sometimes people bring the negative attitudes from home to the school/work. Had the person had a fight with someone and taking it out on you or was it a targeted attack?
Remember the 24-hour rule. Someone may have said/wrote about you that you want to counter or argue but it might have been a rare incident that had to do with issues in the person life and not about you. While is not right, you need to decide if how severe it was and if you should react. If it does not require immediate attention, such as a physical attack or threat to your safety, wait and determine how you feel after 24-hours. If you are still feeling hurt or bullied after you take a break and take a step back to look at the situation, then it is time to talk to that person or seek assistance.
Once you determine that the action was bullying, i.e. something that made you feel isolated and mentally or physically hurt, then you must decide to confront the person or seek assistance. Depending on the severity it might be helpful going to a mental health provider or your instructor. If you want to confront a person you need to organize what you want to say.
Step Three: Blocking the Bully Online
If the bullying is happening online and you do not wish to confront the person, you can block them, unfriend them, report images, or change your privacy settings.
Step Four: Speak to the Bully
If you choose to speak to you bully, make sure that you are mentally prepared and understand your feelings. Ask to speak to them privately or if you have sought help from another student or from faculty you have them with you as a third-party observer. Have the specific incidents that have caused you trouble ready as examples, and make sure you are assertive but not aggressive. You want to clearly state your feelings in a calm, collected manner. Try not to scream, or make accusations. Try not to be “sink to their level”. You do not want to fight a bully by becoming a bully yourself.
The first step is to describe the specific behaviour. For example: “you have called me names on many occasions” or “two days ago you pushed me into the wall”.
Next, you want to address how the actions are affecting you. Use your “I” statements to say how you feel. For example, “I feel uncomfortable when you do this”, or “I find it difficult to come to class”.
Try to listen as much as possible but still, speak for yourself. Just because they try to justify their actions does not change the outcome. You can disagree with them without attacking or becoming the bully yourself. While they have hurt you being respectful in your approach will help foster change rather than building resentment or anger.
Next, you will tell them what change you want to see and inform them of the consequences of not changing. You want to ask them to stop their bullying behaviours or else you will go to an authority figure, such as faculty or the mental health provider on campus. For example, “Will you stop name calling me or I will go to the professor and/or the social worker on campus”.
Stick to your statement, do not let the bully talk you out of your opinion. The bully might try to undermine your position, tell you that you’re exaggerating, or that you are being “too sensitive”. Don’t let this deter you. If you are upset your feelings are valid, and you do not have to continue feeling miserable because someone thinks you are “overreacting”. If they do not agree to change their behaviours or they say they will but continues anyway you need to go to someone of a higher authority.