This is the third and final part of three articles dealing with intimidation, harassment, or bullying. The first article was entitled, “What ‘s the matter? Don’t you have a sense of humor?” In it, I discussed the causes of bullying. The second article was titled, “Don’t stand up TO others, but stand up FOR yourself.” In it, I described the formula for speaking assertively and suggested that standing up for our rights, if possible, is the best course of action when dealing with bullies. This article continues by providing different ways to respond to the intimidator’ s taunts. The more variations you know, the more options you will have, and the greater the likelihood of finding one to match your particular situation. So, here are some more responses that may help.
1. Without being confrontational, ask the bully to repeat what was said. For example, “What was that?” or “Sorry, I didn’t catch what you said, can you repeat it?” Asking a question reverses the situation, placing you in control. It’s like playing a game of tennis. When bullies taunt you, they are slamming the ball at you. When you immediately respond with a question, it is a volley, placing the ball in their court. It catches them off guard. They didn’t expect that. The question forces them to reconsider the vicious remark that they made. Embarrassed or befuddled, they will usually respond with a weaker version of the original remark. So, with a single question, you have lowered the level of intimidation by one notch. After they repeat it, what should you do? You could brush it off; laugh it off, or continue with another response, such as the following.
2. After getting the bully to repeat the remark, say something nice! Such as, “I can’t believe you would say such a thing. It is beneath you. Such remarks are unworthy of you. Guess you’re having a bad day. Got to go now. See you later.” All bullies are deeply troubled. They wish someone would understand them. Your remarks suggest that you may not only understand, but also sympathize with them. If you repeat similar comments whenever you meet, you may change them into decent people.
3. Practice reverse psychology by turning insults into compliments. If the bully says, “My, you’re terribly ugly,” you could say, “What a nice thing to say! I didn’t think you noticed. Bye, bye.” When you refuse to be hurt by the comments of bullies, you make them become failures at their own game. That may make them uncomfortable enough to stop taunting you.
4. Redirect the insults back to the source. For instance you could say, “I’m so happy you’re practicing affirmations! Keep repeating what you said. If you say it often enough, you will come to believe it. That will make you feel better. Next time you see me, you can practice some more.” A variation of this theme would be, “I apologize. I didn’t realize you have such low self-esteem that you have to belittle others to feel good. Next time I’ll try not to be so obvious.” This response may force the bully to face his or her weakness and bring about some change. But never say these remarks in a malicious manner. Instead of acting superior, act more enlightened.
5. Offer help. You could say, “Look, no one is this mean unless something is troubling them. If you ever want to speak about it, let me know. Perhaps I can help.”
6. Fogging. Fogging is a term used in assertiveness training. It means to agree with part of the bully’s statement. By expressing an area of agreement, you are being non-confrontational, yet remain firm. For example, the bully calls you a skinny moron and you reply, “Yes, I am skinny. In fact, I may even be a moron in your mind. But I’m sure you’re intelligent enough to know I’m not stupid. So, why are you insulting me?”
7. Reply with a sense of humor. But don’t act as though you’re looking down at the bully. You’re not laughing at them, but at the situation. Here are some one-liners you can add to your arsenal: “Keep talking. I always yawn when I’m interested.” “Is your name Laryngitis? Because you’re a pain in the neck.” “Is your name Dan Druff? You seem to get into people’s hair.” “I hear you pick your friends – to pieces!!” “I’m very careful of how I express my opinions of you because I want to put as much vituperation in them as possible.” “When you get to the men’s room, you will see a sign that says, ‘Gentlemen.’ Pay no attention and go right on in.” “We do not complain about your shortcomings, but about your long stayings.” “Sorry, I’m not John Edwards; I don’t speak to the dead.” “You must be the arithmetic man – you add trouble, subtract pleasure, divide attention, and multiply ignorance.” “I used to think that you were a big pain in the neck. Now I have a much lower opinion of you.” “You must have gotten up on the wrong side of the cage this morning.” “I’m sorry, I’m busy now. Can I ignore you some other time?” “You used to be arrogant and obnoxious. Now you are just the opposite. You are obnoxious and arrogant.” “When someone cuts their finger, you cry over it just to get salt in the wound.” “I admire you because I’ve never had the courage to be so boring.” “You should do some soul-searching. Maybe you’ll find one.” “Do you want me to accept you as you are, or do you want me to like you?” “Before you came along we were hungry. Now we are fed up.” “The next time you shave, could you stand a little closer to the razor?”
The above retorts may be funny, but bullying is no laughing matter. It is not to be put up with. So stand up for yourself and others whenever it is possible. Remember that there is strength in numbers. When you hang out with friends, you can offer support to each another. The only reason there are bullies is that not enough people stand up to them. So, do your part. You never know; you may be the straw that breaks the camel’s back. You may be the one responsible for the bully changing their ways and returning to the flock. Try to be sympathetic and redeem the bully. But if you can’t, and they pose a risk, speak to the authorities. For example, if it’s a matter of bullying in the workplace, talk to your supervisor and the HR Manager, firmly letting them know that the intimidation must end. There are laws regarding safety in the workplace, so if your company doesn’t correct the situation for you, call the police. Finally, if you are less assertive than you would like to be, do something about it. Take an assertiveness course and learn how to gain control over your life and happiness.
Chuck Gallozzi lived, studied, and worked in Japan for 15 years, immersing himself in the wisdom of the Far East and graduating with B.A. and M.A. degrees in Asian Studies. He is a Certified NLP Practitioner, speaker, seminar leader, and coach. Corporations, church groups, teachers, counselors, and caregivers use his more than 400 articles as a resource to help others. Among his diverse accomplishments, he is also the Grand Prix Winner of a Ricoh International Photo Competition, the Canadian National Champion of a Toastmasters International Humorous Speech Contest, and the Founder and Head of the Positive Thinkers Group that has been meeting at St. Michael’s Hospital, Toronto since 1999. His articles are published in books, newsletters, magazines, and newspapers. He was interviewed on CBC’s “Steven and Chris Show,” appearing nationally on Canadian TV. Chuck can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org. View his photography at https://500px.com/chuckgallozzi. This article cannot be re-published without permission.