It’s pretty well-established that bullying is a bad thing and hurts people tremendously. In fact, that’s an incredibly simplistic way of putting it. People have literally died due to bullying and others have had their entire lives turned upside down.
But we all have an inherent idea of what a bully looks like. We assume it’s an aggressive older kid on the playground, giving someone younger and weaker a hard time.
People expect to hear about bullying on playgrounds. That’s what the “norm” is. But is bullying ever normal? And is there really an expected age range? It can happen at any age, and be incredibly damaging.
When it’s happening to you as an adult, it’s harder to be taken seriously. People may tell you to ignore it, be the bigger person, don’t rock the boat. I know that, because that’s what happened to me.
Recently, I shared a story about having gone through a terrible stretch of cyber bullying, via the room mate of a former close friend. This person bullied me about my physical appearance, my career, my relationships, and he did so loud and proud on social media and tagged me. Sadly, several of my friends chose to take his side. It destroyed me. I didn’t know how to handle it at the time– but I do, now.
After I shared that story, so many people came to me with their own stories that I realized there are so many of us out there. As adults being bullied, there often is no teacher or parent to report to. So what do we do?
Here are 7 ways to handle adult bullying:
1. Breathe intentionally
When you are bullied at any age, it is easy to react without thinking.
“Take a moment to re-center yourself through breath before speaking back to the person who is bullying you. To do this, inhale for a count of four and then exhale for a count of four,” says Lauren Zoeller, certified Life Balance Coach + Motivational Speaker.
This will give your nervous system a chance to settle down and you can then speak or act from a centered perspective.
2. Realize that bullying is a reflection of the other person’s pain, not yours
If you are bullied as an adult, it’s easy to internalize the bullying as something that you are doing wrong. However, a healthy human being does not bully anyone, ever.
“Take the time to step back and remember that any negative word or action taken against you by another human being is a direct reflection of the other person’s insecurities and pain,” says Zoeller.
3. Re-examine your boundaries
If you are being bullied as an adult, it may be time to re-examine who you are allowing in your life.
“If you constantly find yourself as a target for bullying by a specific person, create a healthy boundary for yourself and remove this person from your life. You do not owe anyone an explanation,” says Zoeller.
Put yourself first.
4. Never respond to the bully
They are often looking for a response. Don’t escalate. Block, unfriend, or unfollow a bully. “
Take a screenshot of the evidence, and report it to the social media network where the bullying takes place. Most online communities have codes of conduct and a place to report such behavior,” says Diana Graber, author of Raising Humans in Digital World and founder of Cyber Civics/Cyberwise.
5. Keep records
Document all of the comments, messages, and other evidence.
“Take a screenshot, keep emails, take actual photos of what is occurring. Please keep all of this in one place and back it up on a second device in case anything happens to the first copy,” says Ashleigh Diserio, who has degrees in psychology and has worked in the behavioral sciences field for 13 years.
”Keep a journal or running timeline of what occurred, where it was posted or what medium it came to you though, if you know who did it or have an idea of who did it, and what you did to try and remedy the situation,” says Diserio.
For example, note when you contacted the site to try and get a comment down or blocked the person on social media.
6. Report them
Report what is happening to the service provider and have other friends and family report it also.
“The more support behind you to remove the bullying comments or flag the person’s profile the more likely it is to get done,” says Diserio.
Also, contact your local police department to see if there is anything that can be done.
7. Practice self-care
The toughest part is the mental and emotional toll this takes on the victims.
“There are support groups run by professionals that you can join and other more social groups where people who have gone through this get together to offer support to one another. It is not shameful or weak to ask for help getting through this. I takes courage to reach out for help,” says Diserio.