Bullying and The Challenge of Stopping It…

By Ruth Sirman and Julie Lowry

There are many old proverbs / truisms / adages that talk about how we should interact with others. We are brought up to ‘treat others the way we want to be treated’, be kind and respectful and not bully others. The reality is that bullying, disrespect and nastiness are common – and they cost us individually and collectively.

And sometimes we say one thing and do the opposite. I wonder what message our kids get when we tell them they need to be respectful but they witness adults and public figures being negative, mean-spirited and nasty.
When we harass or attack others it is common to rationalize our actions to deal with the cognitive dissonance / discomfort created when we do something that is not congruent with our values, beliefs and stated expectations. We see many examples of this – when parents make nasty comments to their kids or teachers put a child down in front of the class or when colleagues say one thing to someone’s face but then are disrespectful behind their back. Evidence of this is everywhere and it points to a double standard that speaks to “Treat ME the way I want to be treated but I can treat you however I feel in the moment”. Other times we whitewash our nastiness by calling it something more ‘acceptable’ in an effort to disguise what it really is.

One of the most recent political examples is the incongruence between the Canadian government’s declaration of May 1st as the National Day to end Bullying which allows for increased public awareness and demonstrates our government’s commitment to the issue. On the other hand we have the Harper government’s current advertisement campaign that puts down new Liberal party leader Justin Trudeau. There is a dis-connect here – this seems to be a ‘do as I say but not as I do’ situation (at least as I see it). And the rationalization? Mr. Harper identifies the recent attack ads as ‘political debate’ which I am sure is much easier to justify than what comes across as intentional disrespectful spitefulness.

While Mr. Harper seems to have missed this message – so have many of us… We will end bullying and harassment when we truly believe that how you do anything is how you do everything and we learn to be hard on the problems we need to address and find ways to make our points without disparaging others.

The Conflict Resolution Workout!

Take a moment to consider:
When have you seen people say one thing and do the opposite?
What impact does it have on relationships? credibility? trust?
When have you done the same thing? (the opportunity to be objectively honest if you are willing? 🙂 )
How did you rationalize the choice(s) you made?
How might the results have been different if you had chosen to act more constructively?

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