Thursday, July 5, 2012

Even adults get bullied. What to do about it?

On the blog today I have a guest post by Tahlia Newland author of You Can’t Shatter Me, a new young adult novella about bullying. Tahlia writes magical realism and contemporary fantasy for young adults & adults. Her short story A Hole in the Pavement  is free on kindle until the  7th July.

When I wrote You Can’t Shatter Me, although I set it in a school situation with teens as the main characters, I wrote it for everyone no matter what their age and situation because even adults get bullied. One of the reasons bullying is so entrenched in our society is because it permeates all strata of life, often hidden beneath an ‘acceptable’ veneer and unrecognised for what it is.

Bullying is a persistent, deliberate attempt to hurt or humiliate someone. There are different types of bullying but they have three things in common:
  • They involve deliberately hurtful behaviour
  • They are repeated over time
  • They involve an unfair balance of power which makes it hard for those being bullied to defend themselves.
Unfortunately, bullying is alive and flourishing on the internet. Perpetrators of cyber-bullying are called Trolls, and prolonged & shockingly systematic attacks by such people on authors are becoming far too common. Katherine Ashe, one author who has borne the brunt of this kind of behavior, says, That fellow authors and their friends would behave in this way on the World Wide Web is worse than shameful. It’s unprofessional and infantile.”

It is also quite simply wrong. However, stopping it is not a simple matter because those who bully enjoy the drama and feeling of power it gives them. Also, they are likely to find valid-sounding reasons to justify their behavior and may even not be aware that what they are doing is actually bullying.

So what are we to do if we are the butt of bullying?
First we need to accept that we can’t control the bully’s behavior, but we can control how we let it affect us. Normally, we get angry and defensive. We lose our peace of mind. But instead of reacting with fear and hatred, we could use the situation to arouse our compassion. Having compassion in our heart calms and strengthens us, and through our changed behavior positively affects the behavior of others. Here’s the logic.

People bully because they are feeling one or more of the following.
  • Afraid
  • Jealous
  • Envious
  • Cruel
  • Angry
  • Insecure
  • Unhappy
  • Arrogant
  • Weak
These are unpleasant mind states to be in. So the bully is unhappy or, at the least, ill at ease in some way. Just like us, they want to be happy, but they aren’t. Imagine how it would be to live with a mind and heart full of any of those emotions listed above? Ouch. Not a good feeling, right?
Now, try wishing that they be well and happy.  Visualise them as so well and happy that they no longer feel the need to hurt others. It takes courage to turn our attitude around like this, to wish well the person who is hurting us, but each time we do it, we become stronger and more able to stay cool, calm and collected in the face of abuse.
With this attitude we will naturally be less inclined to inflame and more likely to ease the situation. A compassionate attitude is so radical that actions imbued with it can stop bullies in their tracks.
So for online bullying I’d say
  1. Don’t take it personally, even if they mean it to be. It’s just a bad role they’re playing in a cruddy story. Don’t make it yours by buying into their drama.
  2. Ignore it if you can, and use the perpetrator’s suffering to arouse your compassion. Think, how awful it must be to be them, and remind yourself that their behaviour will do them more harm in the long run than it will you.
  3. If you need to respond to a valid question, or correct a misunderstanding,
    • don’t attack them back or use language that will inflame them. Don’t even call them Trolls in direct communications with them, instead appeal to their better nature. Even though they may seem like it, they are not Trolls by nature, just people behaving like Trolls.
    • Be very respectful and kind. Leave a short, polite, non-emotive statement. Let them know that you respect their opinion and would appreciate it if they could, in turn, keep their comments respectful.
  4. If it continues, it’s best that you ignore it, but if you must reply, leave another polite statement that indicates that you’re sorry they feel that way, but the manner in which they express their opinions is hostile and inappropriate.
    • If they are still raising the same concerns or arguments, don’t repeat yourself, instead leave links to places where you have already addressed their concerns.
    • Let them know that you do not intend to engage with them any further.
    • End by wishing them well.
  5. Then, say no more. Let them talk into a vacuum. If you reply to them, the whole thing will keep going. Simply don’t visit the forums where they abuse you. It will blow over eventually.
I use analogies and metaphors for the magical elements in my writing. One that helps here is that bullies are playing a game, but you don’t have to play with them. For a game to continue, it needs two sides, one to throw the ball and one to hit it back. If you don’t hit it back, they are left chasing the ball. So don’t play and tell your friends not to play either.
The next time someone hassles you, remember that they are unhappy in some way and wish them happiness. See how it changes how you feel. A heart full of love and compassion is the best protection.
These are the kind of ideas that pervade You Can’t Shatter Me. How do they sound to you?

You can find Tahlia's book at: 
Epub files for Nook, Kobo, Sony etc: http://catapult-press/shop
Files for all devices:

book website:
personal website:

Katherine Ashe is the author of the  four volume Montfort novelized series