Most advice for dealing with bullying given to individuals isn't practical or is simply unwise, according to a new study, even though a variety of approaches are widely shared. In particular, it tends to recommend solving the problem personally, and suppressing emotions triggered by the bullying. Recourse through formal institutional channels also often fails to work, particularly when driven by a single complaining victim.
While the paper discusses at length what does not work, it takes real effort to dig through it and glean the approaches that do work which are illustrated without a clear declarative statement about what they involve. But, because this is such a dire situation when you are in it, and the advice is ultimately good and unexpected, I have done the work for you.
Solving a bullying problem by yourself usually doesn't work. Neither, in most cases, does suppressing your emotional response to the bullying with everyone in contact with the situation. Neither in most cases, does resorting to formal institutional channels by yourself.
What responses to bullying do work?
1. Share the experience with peers who also interact with the bully in a fully emotional manner that demonstrates the these peers the seriousness of the situation, outside formal organizational channels.
2. The right thing for a peer who hears these accounts to do is to validate these emotions and to seek to expand the group that learns about the bully's conduct so that more peers can learn about the bully and validate these emotions.
3. The victim and the peers of the victim should then put time and thought into developing a collective response to the bullying that is primarily outside of formal channels.
4. Resort to formal institutional channels should be a secondary part of this plan and should also be organized as a collective response to the bully's conduct that should be activated when it is likely to be successful.
From an economics perspective, bullies are basically a collective action problem.