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Don't make a bad situation worse

You have just had a target of bullying behaviour report it to you. There are a number of ways that you can address the issue. But what you say to the target can make a huge difference to the way they feel about themselves and the confidence they will have in you dealing with the situation. While there is lots of well meaning advice out there, here is some that should be avoided.
A school in the USA recently gave out this advice (link to article) to students on how to deal with bullying behaviour. Below is a short summary of the advice which the school later acknowledged as not being "best practice". A few reasons why this is the case is provided and it is best to avoid using any of these suggestions.

1. Refuse to get mad/angry because if you do your treating them like an enemy.

We do not have control over our feelings, we feel what we feel. We can only control our behaviour and how we act on those feelings. This suggests targets are wrong to feel angry when they have every right to be. It also blames the target because they are creating the bullying behaviour user into an enemy by being angry.

2. Treat them like they are trying to help you and be grateful, think they really care about you.

This places the onus on the target to have to change to cope with the situation rather than the other way round. Basically it suggests that you act like this type of behaviour is okay when it really needs to be stopped.

3. Don't be afraid as you will then treat them like an enemy.

This minimises the feelings of the target, suggests they can control their feelings and totally disregards the physical and psychological risks that they might be facing. The reason given is that targets should do this is they should not treat bullying behaviour users like an enemy even though the targets are being treated as an enemy. The target is being to blamed for the behaviour they are receiving.

4. Don't verbally defend yourself because if you defend you lose.

By some twisted logic if you attack you win and defend you lose. Unless of course your attack is in retaliation then you started it and your lose (see 5 below). Therefore the target is the loser if the defend themselves and so blames the target for standing up for their rights.

5. Do not attack as we attack enemies, not friends and because it takes two to fight the person who retaliates actually starts the fight.

Blames the target for not being friends, creating enemies and because they retaliate they are the one starting the fight. Basically using self defence or standing up for your rights is wrong.

6. If someone physically hurts you just show that your hurt to get them to feel sorry as getting angry will not make them feel sorry for you.

It blames the target for getting physically hurt because they didn't get the bullying behaviour user to feel sorry for them and then apologise. What the bullying behaviour users feels is outside of the control of the target and suggesting that they can influence this is unhelpful and dangerous.

7. Don't' tell on bullies as the number one reason bullies hate victims is because they tell. It goes on to say to only tell if there is a "real" injury or crime and questions if you would keep your "friends " if you tattle on them.

This suggests that telling is the real problem not the bullying behaviour and targets will get worse if they speak up. If reported issues are poorly handled then there is lots of evidence the target is victimised and receives retaliation. Here the target is being blamed for worsening the problem when it's actually factors outside of their control. It minimises the feelings and undermines the target by suggesting what they are experiencing is not a 'real' injury or crime. Suggests targets are going to lose friends if they tell placing pressure on them to say nothing. The less reporting of these issues also suits management because they can claim not to know about problems, minimise the level of the problem and do not have to implement effective (i.e. time consuming) responses to problems.

8. Don't be a sore loser as no one likes them.

The target is to blame because they are a sore loser and you are going to lose all your friends because of it. Provides no support to the target.

9. Learn to laugh at yourself and not worry about putdowns.

The target is the problem because they worry too much about the putdowns and cannot see the funny side. Provides no support to the target.

When dealing with targets of bullying behaviour, the guiding principle is to do no further harm. Avoiding blaming the target or suggesting what they feel is not valid. This just makes a bad situation worse.
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