Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Rethinking Bullying VI

Engage the Bully

After the grisly display of bloodshed and savagery carried out by the Cyclops, the Greek sailors were reduced to quivering, terrified children. Sensing that the Cyclops fed off not only the bodies of the men but also their fear, Odysseus began to plot and scheme. He drew the Cyclops into a conversation that distracted the monster, at least momentarily, from devouring other members of his crew. He learned that the name of this brooding menace was Polyphemus. He turned the discussion to the subject of wine, educating the one-eyed giant about the pleasures of the drink of the vine. The Cyclops was lured into drinking the wine and thus fell into a deep, inebriated sleep.

Now, we cannot drug bullies or trick them into drinking alcohol until they become unconscious. Rather, we ought to teach students who are being bullied how to use their minds in the moment. Encourage students to engage the bully in conversation if they feel that the situation is about to turn ugly. This tactic often distracts the bully from his original intent, of harming the victim. Further, this technique puts the locus of control back into the victim’s hands. Bullying is about control and domination.

When a victim is able to gain control of what could have been an out-of control situation, self-esteem increases. An adult can facilitate this strategy by offering to role-play the situation with the student. It also helps to have topics of conversation ready to use at a moment’s notice. There is no predetermined schedule for bullying activities, so fortune favors the prepared. Ask the student to brainstorm topics of conversation that might be of interest to the bully. Is he drawn to cars or dirt bikes? Does she like a certain type of music? Whatever the topic may be, conversation breeds familiarity and reduces fear. The bully becomes less of an enigmatic monster and is revealed to be merely human. Not only can this tactic help a victim of bullying regain control, but being able to converse intentionally with others is also an important life skill.

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