Deal With Bullies

Bullies come in all shapes and sizes. Over time, most of us have to deal with a bully or two, perhaps as children or maybe as an adult. Recent statistics reveal that one in four children are faced with bullying at one time or another.[1] In the workplace, the home, the military, hospitals, and even nursing homes, bullying is an issue for adults. Those who bully need to be dealt with carefully and most of all, the cycle must be stopped.


Understanding Bullying

  1. Know what bullying is. It's important to define bullying appropriately, to avoid labeling every negative social interaction as a case of bullying, as some conflict has nothing to do with bullying and may be a sign of normal, healthy relating. Bullying is unwanted, aggressive behavior that involves a real or perceived power imbalance. The behavior is repeated, or has the potential to be repeated, over time. Both bullies and victims may have serious, lasting problems.
  2. Realize their actions might not have anything to do with you. Something personal can be going on in the bully's life. They need a punching bag to take their anger or sadness out on, and unfortunately, it is you. Don't take this personally. Most likely, it has nothing to do with you.

Developing Coping Mechanisms

  1. Ignore Bullies Do not show the bullies that you feel hurt and they've succeeded in affecting you; just walk away as if you didn't mind it. Bullies gain satisfaction from making others feel hurt or uncomfortable, so reacting to them will only encourage them further. [2] The bully wants attention and if you show them that they are emotionally hurting you, they will get more pleasure out of doing it.
    • This tactic may backfire depending on the bully, so read the situation carefully. Some bullies will feel safe tormenting you (as they enjoy that action itself) if they see that you aren't suffering from their actions.
    • You cannot talk sense to an irrational person. Walk away with dignity, saying you have better things to do with your time. If it continues, stand up for yourself. Whether it continues or not, be sure to stand up for others who are being bullied.
  2. Feel your inner strength. Everyone has an inner strength to draw on; the problem with bullying is that many bullies try to make you feel that you lack this strength and that you're less of a person because of this. It's not true; beware the deliberate attempt to belittle you and cause you to feel weak.
    • Sometimes we think they can take everything we have as a person away from us. Believe that you are stronger than they are, because deep down you are stronger than they are and stronger than they ever will be.
  3. Work your way around the bullies. Try to avoid them in school and social situations. If they take the same route that you do, try a different way; if they can't find you, they can't bully you. Try your best to avoid them but don't show that you are avoiding them. They will usually read this as fear or success, and they will bully you more as a result.
    • Always walk with a friend; there's safety in numbers. Most bullies will be deterred if people in their camp aren't around. They don't want to get in trouble, and if your friends are around, that could happen.
  4. Do not make jokes at your own expense to try to prove that there is nothing that the bully can do to hurt your feelings. This will only please the bully, and they will often chip in with their own ridicule and humiliation to lower your self-esteem. You're just sinking to their level with the target still being yourself.
    • There is nothing funny about bullying, and agreeing with them – whether it's about you or someone else – is just exacerbating the problem. Jokes aren't appropriate in the situation, even if it feels like they're diffusing the tension. They're really just fueling the fire.
  5. Reflect an insult back to a verbal attacker. If accomplished in public, this can elicit laughter from surrounding peers or victims at the bully's expense. This is a bully's worst nightmare, as they are de-throned from their position of power over you. Remember not to show the bully the attention they are hungry for, as this will allow the bully the pleasure of actually hurting others emotionally.
    • Avoid insulting the bully if they have a history of physically bullying you, since this instigates a conflict you can't win. Instead of exacerbating the situation, walk away. Report this to an authority figure if you believe you are in danger.
  6. Outsmart the bully. Bullies usually aren't very smart or witty, so you can use this to your advantage. Here are a couple of ideas:
    • Laugh at everything they say, and the worse the insult, the harder you should laugh. Try to think of it as something really funny and actually laugh. This is undeniably frustrating to bullies, because they want you to cry, not laugh.
    • Scream a quote at the top of your lungs to their face. You should only try this when they've tread on your feet or in general are doing something wordlessly annoying. There are many good things to quote, such as the first verse of Jabberwocky, songs that have been mostly forgotten, ("I am I, Don Quixote, the Man of La Mancha") or make up some of your own ("I would like a dollar so I can buy a fish!") . In this case, random is the key word. The bully might be so surprised that you can cause laughter or, at a minimum, get away. If they think you're crazy, that's okay too!

Building Your Own Strength

  1. Take martial art lessons. Consider Karate, Kung Fu, Taekwondo, Judo, Ju Jitsu, Aikido or something similar. This will boost your confidence, prime your physique and enable you to gain combat or defensive skills. Bullies like to prey on those they perceive as being weaker than them, so developing a battle aura can help deter them. Martial arts skills will also help you learn how not to appear to be an easy target.
    • You don't have to look like a fighter, just be a no-nonsense type with a don't-mess-with-me aura. It's better to be combat ready and not need it than to be black and blue wishing you could've defended properly.
  2. Be smart and aware of everything. Study the surroundings for possible escape routes, hangouts, conflict zones, safe zones, and territorial boundaries. Be aware of the bully's patterns including possible connections, as most bullies have a pack of underlings. Knowing the enemy and the surroundings could mean a lot when evading but, most importantly, during a direct confrontation.[3]
    • Be confident when walking about. Walk with a purposeful confidence and a don't-you-dare-mess-with-me attitude. Walk with your head up looking forward in the direction you are walking and use your peripheral vision to be aware of the people around you. No matter how untrue it feels to you, act confident and stand tall. Everyone will be none the wiser.
  3. Learn a few self defense moves. This is very important should you need to fight (which hopefully you won't). You don't need a black belt, just tips on self-defense. Do so with all your strength, and do so without reluctance.
    • A quick kick in the groin will make the person feel dazed and look embarrassed long enough for an escape. Bullies aren't always used to others getting the best of them.
    • If the groin doesn't work, try the solar plexus (right below the ribs), or kick a knee to make the person trip.
    • If the bully is grabbing you or pushing you, believe it or not, it's actually an advantage. Try really hard to keep your balance, grab one of their arms with your left hand and hit their elbow with the other, then using your other hand, push away the remaining arm.
    • Then when you get your first chance, run to get to a safe place and call for help.
  4. Develop a deep understanding of yourself (and how great you are). Know your strengths, weaknesses and goals. Know what you want and what you're capable of. This self assurance can be helpful when dealing with verbal bullies, as their words of insult won’t reach your core. Verbal bullies usually require an audience when dishing out insults and their words are rarely based on what's true but rather what's catchy.
    • Try to overcome the rumors: tell everyone it's not true and that the bully just wants attention. Turn the negative spotlight back onto them. Point out their bullying tendencies and how incredibly insecure and unhappy they must be to have to pick on others.
    • These insults and the way this person is treating you has nothing to do with reality, nothing to do with you, and everything to do with them. This is their insecurity and unhappiness showing through. When they're done with you, they'll likely move onto someone else.
  5. Don’t be tempted to bully back. The last thing you want to do is to sink to the bully’s level. While you should definitely point out why they’re bullying and find holes in their argument, never, ever, ever resort to behavior like theirs. That’s just another way of giving them power. It makes you as bad as them.
    • And if you do, you're about to get in much as trouble as they are. If things do get crazy and the appropriate authorities get involved, no one would know who the actual bully is – you or them.

Preventing the Cycle

  1. Recognize the type of bully you and others are dealing with. Bullies cross the spectrum – some abuse physically, others verbally, while others play mind games and toy with you emotionally. Many bullies use a combination of these strategies. Whatever the type, it helps for you to understand the approach taken by the bully.
    • Does the person abuse you physically? Aggressive bullies like to hit, punch, kick and pull hair. They will do it without hesitation. Such a bully isn't beyond starting a physical fight, only to blame it all on you or cry that they're hurt and you started it.
    • Is this person a name-caller, someone who insults you verbally? Taunting bullies are verbally abusive (calling names, making jokes, teasing, etc.).[4]
    • Does the person pretend to be your friend, but then makes fun of you in front of others without warning? This is just one type of emotional bullying. Others include threatening to hurt or break something you care about, doing something to cause you to be ridiculed (such as having a "kick me" sign on your back) or telling lies about you to other people to Try to make them hate you. Indirect bullies, sometimes known as backstabbers or gossip-mongers, spread rumors, exclude others, and harass their victims whenever possible.
  2. Understand that cyberbullying is as real as face-to-face or real life bullying. Cyber bullies harass other people through instant messaging, e-mail, and any other electronic means. The best way to deal with online bullies is to delete their messages and not read anything they say. Be sure to block the bully as well.
    • If this is happening to you, it is just as legitimate as face-to-face bullying. Do not hesitate to tell your parents, your boss, a teacher, or the police, if necessary, about your situation. This is not okay and should not be tolerated.
  3. Report all bullying to an authority figure. Consider your parents, school guidance counselor, principal, boss, the police, or someone else who can deal with or punish the bully and protect your safety. It's important that you talk to someone about your problem to get it to end. This is not cowardly of you. This is brave of you to come forward and make yourself vulnerable.
    • Do not worry about revenge that the bully may take if you report the incident; they will hurt you anyway and appeasing them doesn't solve your problem or anyone else they are bullying. You could also go to tell a good friend – a good friend includes them standing up for you and you standing up for them as well.
    • If there is a bullying survey in your school always write your name down. Do not be embarrassed. You will probably be asked to talk to someone in private who is very experienced and this can be surprisingly helpful. You might feel very small but in reality you are bigger than the bully.
  4. Help others through their situation. Bullies are people who try to make themselves look good. All they want is attention, and they have probably learned their bullying from home or friends. Take that away from them and they have nothing! Since you've experienced the problem, you know how it can hurt, and you know how to help others!
    • One of the simplest way to help others feel better in the face of bullying is to change their understanding of it. Emphasize to them that bullies themselves are unhappy and frustrated and are trying to have control over their feelings to finally feel good themselves. It’s kind of sad, if you think about it.
    • If someone comes to you and they're in a situation similar to yours, go with them to report their problem. They'll greatly benefit from the moral support. If they don't have their own strength, they can soak up some of yours.
  5. Spread the word. Bullying is a real problem. It is not something that needs to be shoved aside and dealt with quietly. Take your issues and talk about them. Ask your school to hold talks or seminars putting it in the front of everyone's minds. Make everyone aware that it happens every day. Only when people are looking for it can they do something about it.
    • You may think you're alone or that you don't know anyone that's gone through something like you have, but that's likely because those people are too shy to speak up. If you break the ice, you may be surprised how many people join you in your fight.


  • Don't take anything bullies say to heart; they are not worthy of your tears! Do not let their words stop you from achieving your goals! Show confidence, and show to them that their words have no effect on you.
  • Some bullies might just be jealous of you. They only bully you because you have a great talent that they don't have, so be proud of what you are doing. Calling names is not fun. Actually, what's deep inside those bullies is they don't have the guts to do what you do the best.
  • Nowadays, schools aren't an effective solution to bullying. You need to provide evidence (and which most people can't provide evidence of emotional bullying). And remember, the bully can always lie and have fake witnesses backing him/her up. Tell your parents first and then the school administrators.
  • Stay calm at all times, as this will puzzle and frustrate a typical bully at their attempts to elicit a negative reaction.
  • Think hard and work out everything that could be making the bully unhappy, maybe they're unhealthy, have few friends, or a fear of something. Then think about how you are in these aspects, maybe they're jealous because you have these advantages over them. Use this to help de-escalate the situation by avoiding these topics when you're near them, and when you get sad, remember all the things you're better at than them.
  • If your school doesn't act on reports of bullying, try to have your parents put you in a private or a charter school that will expel or suspend a bully.
  • If the bully is cyber bullying you take a picture of the harassment to have proof of the cyber bullying, report the cyber bully, block them, and have the courage to tell somebody that the cyber bully was cyber-bullying you.
  • If the bully is just saying mean things about you, just ignore them. You know who and what you want to be in life. Chances are, you won't see the bully when you get older.
  • You may be worried that the bully will be angry if you tell someone, but in the long run it is for the best. If you let people walk over you they'll walk over you forever!
  • Never feel like you're going to have to constantly get out of the way of them. Avoid them if needed, but show them that you're not scared to be around. If you suspect to be bullied at certain times (like after school or before), make sure someone is with you to defend or call for help, etc.
  • Don't let the bully see you cry. If they see you react emotionally, they'll just bully you more.
  • Just avoid the bully and walk away. If necessary, go and tell a teacher or a parent, or report it to the headmaster or tell a friend.
  • In the United Kingdom, you can call child line for free to talk about bullying in private. This will not show up on your phone bill.
  • Remember that they are broken down and they want other people to feel the same way.
  • The bully is probably just jealous of you. Never listen to them. If they make fun of you because of the way you look, don't change. Otherwise, it will only get worse. If you walk away from the bully, you might see them frown. Some bullies have experienced that already.
  • If they don't harm you but make you upset, don't behave rudely to them or try to befriend them. If you yell at them, you're likely to be seen as the problem, and befriending them can lead to a whole host of other problems.
  • Never keep it to yourself- it only makes it worse.
  • If you are not a very confident person, then try your best to stand up to the bully. Once you have done it, you will have much more confidence and will be able to stand up to a lot more people.
  • Bullies are strong externally. Inside, they are probably weaker than you. You can use this to your advantage.
  • All bullies are different. Some bullies may still bully you, even if you are showing them that you don't care what they think about you. If that's the case, you need to tell a teacher.


  • Once again, don't take anything they say about you to heart. Don't be fooled by them either. If they try to act nice to you and they look like they mean it, give them a chance. If they look like they're faking it, ignore them.
  • Do not ignore bullies who are doing things that involve touching you, even if they are not strictly attacking. Odds are, those things are serious (say, if a bully pulls up your shirt and licks your back, or else pokes you with either their finger or else a tool, like a pencil; the latter example is an attack, but invalidation happens and people can be convinced an attack is not really an attack). If a bully does anything like that, tell an adult ASAP. Even if they seem to be doing something similar to what you did to them (say, you bumped them once and forgot to say sorry, and now the bully bumps you repeatedly), they are still in the wrong and you should still tell them to stop and talk to an adult you trust about it. If the adult brushes you off, find another adult you trust more, and tell them.
  • Many children are taught that bullies will not get physical if they are only making fun of you. This is not always true, as it can always escalate. Be careful around any bully, always stay in public places or among others (especially authority figures) when a bully picks on you.
  • Always tell a member of authority (teacher, policeman, adult) and do not stop until you are listened to. Ignorance is a good way to combat bullying, yes, but making your voice heard is a better way.
  • If the bully is an adult or young adult and is threatening you or hurting you, that is called abuse. Talk to someone immediately, or call Kids Help Phone(1-800-668-6868)
  • Do not get in the way of bullies.
  • Do not fight with the bullies.

Related Articles

Sources and Citations