In the last section, we discussed helping students deal with prejudice in bullying by looking for ‘golden nuggets’ of truth in the bully’s statement.
In this section... we will discuss helping students deal with verbal bullying by expressing feelings in a calm and constructive manner.
As you know, the techniques we have discussed so far in this course can be highly effective in helping students deal with bullying. However, as you have experienced, these techniques can be difficult for students to use at times in which they feel particularly stressed, hurt, or upset. Remember Mike from the last section? Mike stated, "I understand that the Golden Nuggets technique can help me deal with Kyle, but sometimes when he uses racial slurs to try to hurt me, I get really upset! I don’t know if I can handle trying to calmly ask him all of those question when I’m so mad!"
I stated to Mike, "Sometimes, it is better not to try to implement a technique like the Golden Nugget technique if you are not sure you feel up to it. When you are really upset, it can be best to just express your feelings in a constructive manner."
Mike stated, "Yeah, but if I let Kyle know that he’s really getting to me, won’t he just keep on trying to make me feel worse?"
♦ Choose Your Words Carefully
I explained to Mike that although it may seem risky to be honest with people who enjoy being cruel, oftentimes using honesty encourages others to also be more honest. I stated, "One of the ways you can minimize the risk that Kyle will keep trying to make you feel worse is to choose your words carefully. As long as you are careful not to insult or criticize Kyle in any way, he is likely to hear what you are trying to say and respond more positively. I’ll give you an example of two possible responses you could make when Kyle uses prejudicial language as a weapon. After I give these two examples, we can discuss the differences between them."
1. In the first example, I stated, "You shouldn’t talk that way! You make me sick! You wouldn’t like it if somebody called you names like that!"
2. In the second example, I stated, "I don’t like it when white people use the N-word. I’m really proud of my people, and it hurts when someone doesn’t like me because of my race. I wonder if anyone has ever said anything about you or your family that you didn’t like."
Mike stated, "I can really see the difference there. In the second example, you used ‘I’ all the time. That sounds a lot less confrontational."
I stated, "That’s exactly right. By making ‘I’ statements, you are simply stating your opinion. Kyle probably couldn’t interpret those statements as criticism or insults. A lot of times, people get into the habit of using the words ‘should’ and ‘you’ when they are trying to express their feelings. But as you noticed in the first example, by using the words ‘should’ and ‘you’, these people are actually being critical, rather than expressing their feelings."
♦ Technique: Expressing Feelings
I have found that the Expressing Feelings technique can be especially useful in family situations. Jill, age 13... had recently experienced a lot of conflict with her older sister, Tasha, age 15. Tasha had been receiving several gifts from the girls Aunt Nancy. Jill stated, "Tasha always makes such a big deal out of it when Aunt Nancy sends her something. Like last week, Aunt Nancy sent her these expensive designer jeans. Tasha kept shoving them in my face, saying Aunt Nancy didn’t send me any because I’m such a fat cow!"
I encouraged Jill to use the Expressing Feelings technique with her sister. I stated, "The next time Tasha acts in this way, you might try honestly saying, ‘I’m really jealous. Sometimes I think Aunt Nancy likes you more than she does me, and it hurts."
In our next session, Jill stated, "I tried out expressing my feelings like you said. It actually went really well. Tasha told me that she’s been jealous that our Mom has been spending more time with me lately. I guess I have been bragging about it a bit. Tasha and I ended up having a pretty good talk about it."
♦ Humor and Exaggeration
One variation of the Expressing Feelings technique I sometimes use in family situations involves the use of humor and exaggeration. My client Danny, age 13... was frequently bullied by his older brother Steven, age 16. Danny stated, "Steven has always shoved me around a lot. But since I started getting pimples a lot, he’s been calling me names a lot too. It’s really bothering me, but that Expressing Feelings stuff sounds like it’s way too serious. I don’t think it would work on Steven anyway."
I invited Danny to try role playing a situation in which he could use humor along with the Expressing Feelings technique.
--Danny stated, "Hey Danny, you look like you got your face caught in a meat grinder!"
--I responded by looking tearful, and then burst out into exaggerated crying.
--Danny responded, "Jeez! You don’t have to be such a baby!"
--I replied in a pleasant voice, "Well, I thought you were trying to hurt my feelings, and I wanted to be helpful!"
Think of your Danny. Would using humor and exaggeration with the Expressing Feelings technique be helpful to him or her? Or would a more traditional use of the Expressing Feelings technique be more applicable in his or her situation?
In this section... we have discussed helping students deal with verbal bullying by expressing feelings in a calm and constructive manner.
In the next section... we will discuss three additional techniques for helping students deal with verbal bullying. These three techniques are feeding back, understanding, and name that feeling.
- Roberts, W. B., Jr., & Morotti, A. A. (2000). The Bully as Victim: Understanding Bully Behaviors to Increase the Effectiveness of Interventions in the Bully-Victim Dad. Professional School Counseling, 4(2), 148-155. Retrieved from https://www.jstor.org/stable/42732181?seq=1#metadata_info_tab_contents
Peer-Reviewed Journal Article References:
Duggins, S. D., Kuperminc, G. P., Henrich, C. C., Smalls-Glover, C., & Perilla, J. L. (2016).
Aggression among adolescent victims of school bullying: Protective roles of family and school connectedness. Psychology of Violence, 6
Farrell, A. H., & Dane, A. V. (2020). Bullying, victimization, and prosocial resource control strategies: Differential relations with dominance and alliance formation. Evolutionary Behavioral Sciences, 14(3), 270–283.
Fink, E., Patalay, P., Sharpe, H., & Wolpert, M. (2018). Child- and school-level predictors of children’s bullying behavior: A multilevel analysis in 648 primary schools. Journal of Educational Psychology, 110(1), 17–26.
Lindstrom Johnson, S., Waasdorp, T. E., Gaias, L. M., & Bradshaw, C. P. (2019).
Parental responses to bullying: Understanding the role of school policies and practices. Journal of Educational Psychology, 111
Low, S., & Espelage, D. (2013).
Differentiating cyber bullying perpetration from non-physical bullying: Commonalities across race, individual, and family predictors. Psychology of Violence, 3
What is the problem with using the words ‘should’ and ‘you’ when expressing feelings?
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