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A close-up of a newly opened delphinium flower (Summer 2013).

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Profile of the Bully

Have you ever received an insulting remark, given a dirty look, or experienced social ridicule and exclusion? Whatever it was you experienced from a bully, it was probably one or all of these: undermining, humiliating, excluding, and shaming. 
The psychological impact of bullying can be devastating, long lasting, and can even be tragic. Recently, bullying has resulted in 4 gay teen suicides in the US alone. Here's a quick profile of these victims:
  1. 18-year-old Tyler Clementi (New Jersey), a Rutgers freshman, posted a brief farewell on facebook then jumped to his death off the George Washington Bridge because his roommate secretly taped and broadcast him in a sexual encounter with another man. 
  2. 13-year-old Seth Walsh (California) had been bullied and relentlessly teased for being openly gay…and hung himself from a tree in his back yard. 
  3. Eighth-grader Asher Brown (Texas) shot himself in response to constant harassment from fellow students about being gay. 
  4. 15-year-old Billy Lucas (Indiana) never told anyone he was gay, but his peers assumed he was, tormented him because of it, and he hung himself in the family’s barn.
Schoolyard bullying (the torment of one child by another) is often compared to workplace bullying (the torment of one employee by another). Both types show a tormentor who is insecure, inadequate, and exercises control by humiliating the target. 
The Canada Safety Council has identified that 72% of workplace bullies are bosses. The target of workplace bullies are usually dedicated staff members, well-liked by co-workers, with a non-confrontative interpersonal style. The bully considers their capability a threat and therefore tries to undermine them by unjustified criticism and trivial fault finding.
Bullying, whether in the school or in the workplace, is intended to harm or disturb; it is carried out repeatedly and over time; and it is an interpersonal relationship characterized by an imbalance of power, with the powerful person attacking the less powerful one (Nansel, et al., 2001). 
Bullies harass on purpose using direct modes such as verbal abuse (teasing, insults, cruel remarks), physical abuse (shoving, pushing, hitting) and psychological abuse (rolling one’s eyes, giving the dirty looks, making a mean face). They also harass in an indirect way using malicious gossip, excluding or leaving out the intended victim in conversations or meetings, and engaging in social aggression (telling others not to befriend the victim). 
Nowadays, bullying extends over social networks and can cause tremendous harm and irreversible damage on the victim because it has a global audience. A boss can write disparaging remarks directed to her subordinate and publish it worldwide, for everyone to see. Veiled as a joke, one can write a cruel sentence or two on Facebook which can lead to stress and agony for the intended victim.
To write about the profile of the bully is to look at the dark, nauseating side of some people. These are the people who make your child not want to go to school. These are the people who create unnecessary stress, tension, and negativity in your workplace. Below are some common characteristics of the bully. See if anyone you know fits the profile.
1) Self-absorption. The bully is narcissistic, does not care about anyone (although pretends to) and does do not see value in helping others or being friendly, unless there is something in it for him/her. 
2) Obsession with status. The things the bully values the most is power and status. There  is an almost palpable preoccupation of wanting to dominate and control others. The bully would rather be powerful than charming.
3) Aggressive communication. The bully will often criticize, blame, yell at people, call them names and so on. This style of communication quickly makes people either shut up or become aggressive themselves.
4) Exaggerated teasing. The bully will not stop at making a few jokes. The goal of the bully is to  constantly tease people and make fun of them, especially in public and especially in ways which really hurt. 
5) Lying. The typical bully has no interest in honesty, only in getting what he or she wants. For this reason,  the bully will not hesitate to lie, deceive and manipulate people, and the huge lies may sound like honest truths.
6) Using others. It is very common for the bully, especially in the workplace, to get other people to do part of their work without helping back. Some bullies can cultivate a small army of "slaves" at work.
7) Threatening people. The bully will not hesitate to threaten people to get what he/she wants. If the bully can get you to do something by causing fear, this will be the bully's tool. Most bullies are known to illicit fear in others.
8) Low self-esteem. The bully usually has low self-esteem, is insecure, and would like to ridicule or put down anyone who is better than him/her, especially those who are capable and well-liked.
9. Strong support base. The bully selects a strong base, usually those who have the same bullying patterns. This support base acts like a group of cronies who protects the bully and vice-versa. 
10. Calloused conscience. The bully sleeps well at night. Probably because of lack of empathy, he/she does not see anything wrong in tormenting others. 
If your child has experienced bullying by some classmates, it is best to report it to the teacher or to the principal. No child deserves to be bullied by another.
If you have experienced workplace bullying, you can report it to the management. If the bully is in the management, you can resign or you can wait until the bully fires you. Or you can learn to cope. Whatever coping style you choose, remember that you have the choice to walk away and leave the bully behind.
If you want to know the effects of bullying on your mental, emotional, and physical health, go to
Note to my readers: Share your personal stories of bullying to other readers! Write it in  the Comment section or send your story to I will be delighted to respond to you right away.
Nansel, T. R., Overpeck, M., Pilla, R. S., Ruan, W., June, S. B., & Scheidt, P. Bullying behaviors among US youth: Prevalence and association with psychosocial adjustment. Journal of American Medical Association, 285(16), 2094-2100.

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