Articles > Nanju Francisco

How to deal with a bully

Bullies come in all ages, sizes and forms. They can be young or old. They can be girls, boys, siblings, parents, classmates, teachers, government officials, bosses, officemates and colleagues.

In fact, children are not the only ones who are bullied. Matured people and professionals are also bullied and oftentimes, it happens in the work place. Even journalists are bullied by those people who are either against their work, for no apparent reason, or simply because they have an “ax to grind” against them for criticizing them for doing something wrong.

In my line of work as a journalist, I had experienced being bullied so many times simply because I am a “woman” doing a “dangerous job.”  I even experienced being “beaten up” and “threatened with death” a couple of times. However, I never let those bullies win. I always fight for what I believe is right.

But before I go any further, let us discuss what bullying is in detail.

What is a bully? The Cambridge Dictionary defines a bully as “someone who hurts or frightens someone else, often over a period of time, and often forcing them to do something that they do not want to do.”

Another definition of a bully is “a person who habitually seeks to harm or intimidate those whom they perceive as vulnerable.”

According to psychologists, there are three types of bullying: verbal, social and physical. Let’s explain these types one by one.

Verbal bullying is name calling, rudeness, taunting, or threats of violence or harm through words. Social bullying, on the other hand, is gossiping, hurtful talk, and embarrassing someone in public. Physical bullying obviously is “hitting, beating, slapping, spitting, stealing and making rude hand gestures to another person.”

Some psychologists say that bullies fits the diagnosis of “Narcissistic Personality Disorder.” They describe it as: “A mental disorder in which people have an inflated sense of their own importance, a deep need for admiration and a lack of empathy for others. But behind this mask of ultra-confidence lies a fragile self-esteem that's vulnerable to the slightest criticism.”

Case in point is my past experience as the only “woman” in an all-male group of journalists covering a regular beat that involved a very important leader of one country in Asia.

At first, my male colleagues were “verbally” abusing me for being a “woman doing a man’s job.” They could not stand my presence every time there was a coverage because they said, a woman like me was “not supposed to hold a camera with long lens, take photos, write and work as a journalist.” The first time I heard those statements from them, I could not believe my ears because we were not living anymore in those times when women were only expected to “stay home and take care of their husbands and children.”

Every time they would see me during a coverage, they would taunt me, be rude to me and threaten me with violence through their words. Believe me, in this type of work, one must have the “patience” of Job (the Bible character who was tested by God several times but still kept his patience and faith until the end), the “wisdom” of Solomon and the “strength” of Samson, to be able to endure all the trials and difficulties that come with being a journalist.

At first, I decided to ignore these bullies for many months because I was so busy with work. I tried to deal with them professionally, even though they were treating me badly. But every time we would cover an event together and I would take photos, they would always push me so hard, enough to make me hit the ground and scrape my knees.

Almost every night, I would go home to check my body and look for bruises, courtesy of my male colleagues. Then something happened that really pushed me to put an end to all their bullying. We were covering one event when suddenly, I felt someone pinched me from behind and touched my body in a very malicious and offensive way. That was the final nail in the coffin. I turned around and the biggest guy in the group was laughing at me while the rest of the guys were patting his back, as if he did an excellent job of assaulting me.

I asked him, “Why did you do that?” and his reply was simply, “Go home lady. This is no place for you. This is a man’s job and we don’t want you here!”

I had been very patient with my colleagues but there comes a time that you must deal with these bullies logically, so that they would know their proper place and stop pestering you and causing more damage to you.

I thought to myself, “Enough is enough, this is the right time to confront these bullies.” I decided to fight for my rights that time. I had always fought for other people’s rights, why couldn’t I fight for my own now?

Instead of being afraid of this big bully of a man, I decided to face him, right then and there. Although he was a tall and big man, I was not afraid to tell him to his face that he should not treat me this way, because I was just doing my job as a “fellow journalist,” despite being a woman, and that he had no right to touch me in any way, as this was a clear case of sexual harassment. I told him I could file a case against him for touching my body in an inappropriate way. He was totally shocked and his face became pale because he realized that I was not about to let him get off the hook that time. Then he stepped back and avoided me all throughout the coverage, with a guilty look on his face.

To cut the long story short, after I confronted him, this bully finally admitted his mistake and apologized to me. He started to accept me as a colleague, regardless of my gender and he became a good colleague in the end.

So how do you deal with a bully?

  1. Don’t be afraid – No matter how big or strong you perceive the person bullying you to be, you must not be afraid of him. This is the first step to show him that you are cannot be intimidated or pushed by anyone especially by a bully.

  2. Be confident – You must show the person who is bullying you that you know your worth and that you have self-confidence. Bullies would normally pick on people who have very low self-confidence and who are deemed timid or shy.

  3. Stay in a group – Bullies would normally target victims who are “alone” or does not belong in a group. If you stay in a group, the aggressor would not have any chance to bully you because you are surrounded by many people who would defend you in case of any emergency.

  4. Act immediately – Don’t give the bully a chance to hurt you by waiting for a long time before you act. The longer you delay, the more dangerous it is for you. Act now and save your life and others.

  5. Report the bullying to proper authorities – It is always wise to consult and report to proper authorities whenever one is being bullied. Unless you are 100% sure that it is safe to confront the bully, it is best to avoid any direct confrontation with him in order to avoid being hurt or harassed.

  6. Talk to support groups and medical experts to help you deal with the bullying so that you will be advised how to overcome depression and eventually gain emotional strength to defeat the bully in the right way.

Remember, no one can bully you unless you allow him to do so!  Be strong and never let anyone push and bully you because you do not deserve to be treated in that way.