On the last track, we discussed ‘Turning Insults into Compliments’ for helping students cope with bullies.
On this track... we will discuss two techniques that can help students deal with verbal bullying. These two techniques are Asking Questions and Agreeing.
Leann, 15, was frequently a target of Kim. Kim, also 15, was the most popular girl in the class. Leann stated, "Kim always has something cruel to say to me, especially since I can’t afford the latest clothes like her and her friends. Half the stuff she says doesn’t make any sense at all, but it still hurts a lot."
1. Asking Questions
I stated to Leann, "It’s very common for the things that bullies say to make very little sense. I find that remembering that they often make no sense opens the door for an effective way of dealing with a bully. One good way to respond to this kind of verbal bullying is to Ask Questions. Many bullies, like Kim, don’t really think about what they are saying. They act out of habit. Asking questions can help make people like Kim think about what they are actually doing. So, try to get as curious as you can, and try to stay calm.
Let’s try role playing it out. You can take the role of Kim."
Leann stated, "You sure are ugly!"
I replied, "I guess that’s your opinion. But why would you want to tell me that?"
Leann stated, "Because I don’t like you!"
I responded by stating, "Well, why do you want to talk to me if you don’t like me? Why don’t you just ignore me?"
Leann stated, "I’m having a tough time thinking of anything to say back to that!"
I explained to Leann that if she was having a tough time thinking of a response to my questions, there was a good chance that Kim would also have a tough time continuing to bully her. I stated to Leann, "If you ask Kim questions about her behavior, do you think Kim succeeds in trying to make you look bad?"
Leann replied, "No, I don’t think so. I think she’d look a little silly, actually. But what if she says something I really disagree with?"
Rule of Opposites
I explained to Leann that even though it is really hard not to disagree with a bully sometimes, it is usually not a good idea to do so.
a. "First of all, it doesn’t make much sense to disagree with nonsense.
b. Second, bullies operate by the ‘Rule of Opposites’. If you try to verbally defend yourself, Kim might think she has said something true or important to you, and may increase her bullying."
I explained to Leann that this "Rule of Opposites" is directly related to a second technique that can help students cope with verbal bullying. This second technique is Agreeing. I stated to Leann, "If disagreeing with Kim would make her try to prove she is right, what do you think would happen if you agreed with Kim?"
Leann stated, "Well, I guess she’d be pretty surprised. If she tries to fall into her old habit, she’d just make herself look dumb."
To practice the Agreeing technique, I again had Leann take the role of Kim.
Leann stated, "You’re so lame!"
I replied, "You mean I’ve been wasting all these years thinking I cool, when I’m actually lame? Thanks for wising me up!"
I explained to Leann that although it is important to quickly act as though you agree with a bully, you do not have to agree with all of what the bully is saying. I encourage clients like Leann to instead agree with the possibility that the bully may be right.
I invite Leann to try playing out agreeing with a possibility with me.
--I stated, "I’ve seen that show before."
--Leann replied. "No you haven’t, stop trying to act cool. You’re such a liar!"
--I responded, "Well, I thought I had seen it."
Deemphasizing the Insult
As you are aware, agreeing can be one of the easiest ways for students to deal with verbal bullying and insults. When a bully’s statement is partly factual, the student can agree with the facts, deemphasizing the intended insult. I explain to students lik e Leann that bullies may take any truth or difference and try to twist it into an insult.
I asked Leann to try making an insult that might be partially true.
Leann stated, "Well, one thing Kim picks on me for is my hair. She says things like, ‘You sure do take a bath in that hairspray!"
I stated, "One thing you might consider doing is just ignoring the mean hint that Kim is making. You might try saying, ‘Well, I do love to use hairspray on my hair.’ This untwists Kim’s insult and brings the focus back onto what is actually true."
Think of your Leann. Would Asking Questions or Agreeing help him or her deal with verbal bullying and insults?
On this track... we have discussed two techniques that can help students deal with verbal bullying. These two techniques are Asking Questions and Agreeing.
On the next track, we will discuss helping students deal with prejudice in bullying by looking for ‘golden nuggets’ of truth in the bully’s statement.
What are two techniques that can help students deal with verbal bullying and insults?
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