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  • Ankur Sachdev

Tackle Bullies Like a Hero

Bullies can be anywhere: school, college, office, home, gym, or at a hangout place. If they are not dealt with in the right way, then their unacceptable acts may lead to poor performance or withdrawal from a community. Bullying also affects the victim's mental health. In most cases, it has been found that bullying affects the witness as much as it affects the victim.

Learn how to deal with a bully
Image Credit: California Teachers Association

Merriam-Webster defines a bully as a person who is cruel, insulting, and threatening to others out of habit. A bully threatens others, spreads rumors about them, and expresses aggressive behavior. While this makes a normal person guilty, a bully finds it hilarious and derives pleasure from it.

Being a bully is not gender-specific. Both the genders are an equal part of it. A male bully is often joined by his friends while physically mounting the act. A female bully is also joined by her friends but unlike a male bully, she resorts to non-physical activities like whispering gossip, spreading rumors, name-calling, and emotionally taunting the victim. They aim to isolate the victim to an extent to which the victim ultimately gives up and surrenders himself/herself to their terms.

There are two types of bullies:

1. The first type has more social power as compared to the victim. This is largely due to the strong peer connections of the bully.

2. The second type remains isolated from others. This may be because he/she is depressed, anxious, or has low self-esteem.

Both types of bullies lack guilt for their actions. They show no interest to apologize to the victim or forming a caring community.

In this article, we will understand the psychology & the actions of a bully and learn how to tackle a bully like a hero.

The psychology of a bully

"Some people are not looking for anything logical. They just want to watch the world burn." Alfred Pennyworth, The Dark Knight (2008).

An exciting rush, the desire to gain popularity among friends, and a boost to self-esteem are a few things that influence a person to bully others. A bully often targets weak people who are alone, have unique physical features, or are thought to have a different sexual orientation. The victims of their actions may also be the person who is either less accepted or rejected by peers. For example, a group of students may ignore a student while forming their football team, or a group of colleagues may go for a night-out without including a specific employee. It is okay if such things happen once or twice but if it happens regularly, then it needs to be taken into consideration by an adult or a superior as these are the exact acts that make a person vulnerable to be bullied.

A victim often reacts to the incident in a way that is harmful to his/her life. The incident pushes the victim to depression, increases anxiety, decreases self-esteem, and contemplates suicide. A witness too is vulnerable to similar thoughts. There is a chance that the witness may end up facing a similar incident if he/she does stand up for the victim or does not report the incident. What is more dangerous is that the victim or the witness may eventually become a bully themselves.

According to the American Psychological Association (APA), bullying behavior is motivated by multiple relationships with peers, families, teachers, neighbors, and interactions with social influences. Let us understand these influences to gain clarity about the psychology of a bully.

1. Individual and peer

A person may be influenced by his/her social group or may already have the trait. The social group of which he/she is a part of influences the behavior a lot. If a person is in an aggressive group then the aggressive behavior would be a dominant feature. This may largely be due to peer pressure or the fear of being left out. On an individual level, a person may showcase unemotional or antisocial personality traits by birth.

The belief that one is more masculine than the other may also influence a person to bully others. It is completely unacceptable to stereotype a behavior. For example, only girls cry, or only boys ride a bike. A person who believes that he/she knows masculinity is often the one to bully others on such stereotypes.

2. Family

The family plays an important part in everyone's life. No matter what the age of a person is, the family has a tremendous influence on his/her personality. The term 'family' refers to an environment that a person gets at home. The elements of this environment are parents, siblings, grandparents, and relatives. The behavior of every family member matters a lot. If a family has issues of domestic violence or abusive language, then that will be inculcated into the personality of another member.

In modern times, the system of nuclear families is on the rise. A nuclear family includes parents and children where, in maximum cases, both the parents go out to work. Due to heavy workload or a busy schedule at work, some parents fail to offer emotional support to the child. The issue of job loss to either of the parents makes them aggressive and they vent out their aggression on the child. Such behaviors prompt the child to become aggressive and vent out his/her frustration on someone else. A lot of conflict among parents related to the upbringing of a child or differences in opinions negatively affect the mindset of a child. The point seems specific to children but it affects elders too who, in turn, may bully their colleagues at the workplace.

3. School and culture

A school is a place where children learn and get their education; however, there may be some drawbacks in the system of a school that can encourage a bully to continue his/her behavior. The relationship of a student with his/her teacher matters a lot. It helps the student to study well and be a good person in real life. A student shares the problems with the teacher and during this moment, it is the responsibility of the teacher to be available for the student and offer proper guidance. If the student-teacher network is weak or broken, then the problem will never be solved. Imagine a child complaining to the teacher about someone who has hit him/her during lunch break and the teacher responding to this by saying that the matter was between them and a teacher should not get involved. This is a poor student-teacher network and this is exactly what motivates the bully to continue his/her act. The same goes for superior-subordinate relationships, where the superior ignores the complaint by saying that two matured individuals should straighten out a matter.

The culture here refers to the kind of movies or games that someone watches or plays. A funny movie makes you laugh and you retain that laughter for a long time. An emotional movie makes you sad and you retain that sadness for a long time. Similarly, a violent video game, no matter how good it looks, influences the behavior of a person and the person tends to become more violent because that is what goes on his/her mind. Every movie comes with a certificate yet there are a few portions of it that influence a person's behavior negatively.

All of the above-mentioned points shape the personality of a person. If these points work well, then the person grows in life but if they don't work well, then the person tends to vent out the negativity on others by bullying them.

What bullies do

One thing is for sure, a bully attempts to harm a victim in one way or another. This may also extend to the witness who might someday become a victim. Here are some common actions or common practices that they do to traumatize a victim.

1. Set a target

A bully does not go around victimizing everyone because that becomes dangerous for himself/herself and a bully knows that. Hence, they look for the ones who are soft and easy to target. In the majority of the cases, a bully victimizes a lonely person who is physically weak. The reason, when asked, is said to be the pleasure that they derive. This also boosts the low-esteem of a bully.

They don't just bully people who are lonely and weak but also judge a person by his/her body language. One does not have to be an expert to identify a person who looks afraid or nervous. A person who remains afraid or nervous also becomes a soft target. These are mostly those who have just taken admission into a school or who have just got a new job in a company. Such people do not have any network in the new place and are unaware as to whom they should complain to if they are bullied. Moreover, they are unaware of the culture of the new place. So, whatever is served to them first becomes a starter and if it is served in an unstable state, then that becomes a bad dish to swallow.

This is why a school, a college, or an office always has orientation on the first day.

2. Create a hotspot

They find an ideal location to carry out their heinous acts and stick to it. Also called, 'adda', the hotspot may be any place like a washroom, parking spot, a corner of the ground, or a place that is isolated. Depending on whether the bully enjoys bullying his/her victims in front of the crowd or not, he/she remains there to bully a person. A hotspot is created by a bully who walks with a group to outnumber or overpower the victim.

A bully, with his/her friends, lures the lonely & weak person to become a part of their group, takes them to their hotspot, and bullies the victim. If by any chance, they establish friendship with the victim then it is always based on give-and-take or demand something by saying, "aren't we friends?". For example, a bully may ask the victim to tease a person from the opposite gender in return for letting him/her be a part of the group.

Friends are our family members and no family member ever establishes such relationships.

3. Cyberattack

A bully, who mostly remains isolated, adopts the practice of bullying his/her victims over the internet. The internet is the best place for those who want to seek information and connect with their friends & family but it is also the place where one might get exploited. A bully resorts to taunting like publishing a vulgar comment on his/her victim's photo or status update or sending vulgar messages.

Other cyberbullying activities include making fun in a WhatsApp group, creating fake accounts, and posting embarrassing or uncomfortable photos of someone without their consent. This needs to stop and social media platforms need to take complaints seriously.

The victim may approach his/her family first and share the details of the incident. If required, file a complaint with the police.

According to STOMP Out Bullying, a leading national anti-bullying & cyberbullying organization for kids & teens in the United States of America, a bully who is detached from society plans his/her attacks before executing their acts while a hyperactive bully is impulsive. Neither of them understands how to socialize with others. Both of them have low esteem and find relief in bullying others.

How to tackle a bully

Bullying harms the victim and, sometimes, affects witnesses too. There is a greater chance for the victim to drive himself/herself to substance abuse, fall mentally ill, get isolated, or commit suicide. Hence, it is very important to tackle a bully. Here's how you can tackle a bully like a hero:

1. Encouragement and self-love

A person, whether a student or a professional, must be encouraged to stay involved in their favorite activity. This will keep them busy, connect with others who have similar interests, and enhance their extra-curricular skills. For example, if a person likes to play a musical instrument then encourage the person to join a music class, or if a child likes to draw then encourage the child to join a drawing class. This will provide the person a sense of belonging and a sense of acceptance.

Nobody is perfect and this applies to everyone. A person might have some unique features which are visible to others like weight, hairstyle, or an injury. Tell the person that it is okay to have such unique features. It's always the soul and never the appearance. It is only when a person loves himself/herself that the world will fall in love with that person. The marking criteria of an education system are based on knowledge and promotion in an office is based on performance. Looks matter only to those who cannot see past the materialistic features.

2. Redirect the behavior

It is important to understand the trend of a bully. It is often about the feeling of being rewarded that makes them bully others. A bully might victimize a person during their free time. For example, a student might bully other students when the teacher is not around and there is nothing to do. This happens frequently and there is a way to solve it. When a teacher has to leave the place then they can ask students to solve a math problem or read a part of their book from which a question might be asked by the teacher. For professionals, the supervisor may ask the employees to review the work again and suggest more alternatives.

If the bully successfully remains engaged in an activity then the supervisor or the teacher must reward him/her at least with a round of applause. Let them feel valued and let them know how it feels to be respected. They might never have been respected and hence, don't know how it feels when someone respects the other for their productive achievement.

3. Build a support system

A support system includes a close network of parents, colleagues, and supervisors. A support system should be built with people who would stand for the victim no matter what. It is not necessary to be with each other but they must be somewhere close till the time the bully does not stop his/her behavior. A close network of family and teacher is a must so that an unusual behavior of a child can be discussed. A child may show a sign of isolation or demand to take a long time off from school. This must be discussed among parents and teachers. If ignored, then the child will have a hard time overcoming the experience and this may encourage a bully to bother others.

It is easy to tear one piece of paper but it is nearly impossible to tear a book that has thousands of pages. That's the strength of togetherness. A bully would find it easy to victimize one person but if every person who has been bullied comes together, then it would make it difficult for a bully to face them. A bully does have a group that tries to over-power others but there is nothing stronger than the will of many to stand up for what's right.

4. Stay strong

A bully attacks mostly when the victim expresses weakness or sadness as that is when the victim is at his/her vulnerable moment. Life is about ups and downs. This must be taught to everyone to build confidence. A moment of weakness gives the bully a chance to attack.

The way a victim looks at the bully is also important. Learn to look the bully right into his/her eyes without losing your confidence. If you start losing your confidence, then try to figure out the color of his/her eyes. An eye contact filled with confidence shows who is the real boss. If the situation worsens, then walk away with i-can't-be-hurt-attitude. The bully might find it insulting and attack the victim anyway, but this is a risk worth taking. At least you would have done your part bravely.

5. Wait for the right moment

If you have a comeback and you are determined to use it, then wait for the right moment. Just like everyone, a bully has his/her moment of weakness. A weak moment of a bully is when he/she is distracted or is working on something of which you are an expert. For example, when everyone is asked to contribute in a meeting and the bully answers without any preparation. That is when you point out that you can out-smart him/her. This, obviously, must be done with respect and by using simple language. You can always ask the bully to back off while he/she is victimizing you. If that does not work, then wait for the right moment.

People who prefer not to use a comeback at any point must remain patient. Every action has a reaction or as it is said, 'believe in karma'. What you do to others comes back to you in one way or another. If a bully is making fun of you in the WhatsApp group of your office, then let everyone read those messages. The bully will lose credibility and, most probably, the opportunity to be considered for promotion.

Another way to build confidence is to learn self-defense. It will not just build confidence but it will also make you strong to face an unknown or a sudden attack.

It is important to track the progress of a case that has been reported. In case there is progress, then acknowledge it and appreciate the people who are involved in it. It is recommended to check the progress daily; however, it may be checked weekly or monthly depending on the case.


It is difficult to differentiate bullying from fun; however, Patricia Agatston, a Ph.D. & the former President of the International Bullying Prevention Association, says that if an activity does not go back and forth then it is not fun. An adult or a supervisor must intervene to take control of the situation. It may take time to find and apply a solution but it is important to work with everyone who is involved: the bully, the victim, and the witness.

That is all for this topic.

If you have anything to contribute then kindly share it in the comment section. I would love to hear from you.



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