Compassionate Non-Compliance

How compassionate non-compliance can stop a bully.Compassionate Non-Compliance

The approach I teach to bullying prevention is Operant Conditioning. Basically, I teach kids how to train bullies to leave them alone.

Bullies bully because it works. Bullying is a way for a bully to exert control over someone and as a result gain status that they might not have otherwise had.  The mechanism a bully uses to exert control over their victim is intimidation.

Most humans are risk adverse and don’t like conflict. We avoid it if at all possible. Bullies use that to their advantage by generating conflict that the victim tries to avoid. This is the essence of intimidation and the definition of bullying.

In order to get a bully to stop, you have to stop rewarding them which means you have to stop allowing them to control you through intimidation. This is why so many bullying experts will tell you to stand up for yourself.  What they are really trying to say is, stop allowing the bully to control you. If they can’t control you, you regain your power and you will no longer be a good target for them because the cost of trying to intimidate you is too high and not worth it because it isn’t working.

But how exactly does one go about “standing up” for oneself? Well, I’m glad you asked. It doesn’t mean fighting them or intimidating them back. All it means is that you stop complying with them. Complying means that you submit to another person’s request. When you stop complying with a bully, you stop submitting to their will and desire meaning you stop behaving the way they want you to.

In order to do this well, you need to engage in what I like to call compassionate non-compliance. Meaning you aren’t going to comply with them out of anger or fear. You simply, nicely, and calmly refuse to submit and do what they want. The calmer and more compassionately you refuse to submit the better.

Why? Because if you respond out of anger, the bully will know that they still upset you and intimidate you. And that’s what they want. If you are calm and compassionate with them, they will know that you aren’t intimidated by them. And that’s good for you, bad for them.

What does this look like in practice?

Well, according to my county’s bullying statistics about 65% of all bullying is verbal. Teasing, name calling and other forms of spoken harassment.  The typical verbal bullying incident goes something like this.

Bully: Hey nerdbrain – no one likes you.

Victim: [silent looks down and tries to walk faster to avoid the bully]

Bully: that’s right – go on, loser!

Victim: [leaves – feeling ashamed, hurt and angry]

What this conversation looks like when the victim engages in compassionate non-compliance.

Bully: Hey nerdbrain – no one likes you.

Victim: [stops, looks bully directly in the eye and says calmly] Thank you very much for that information. It’s very helpful. [lingers and continues to look the bully directly in the eye]

Bully: [unsure how to respond – rather nervously] You’re such a loser!

Victim: [continues to make eye contact] Thank you very much for that information. It’s very helpful.

Bully: Let’s get out of here.

It won’t take long at all for these bullies to learn that this “victim” isn’t someone who is intimidated by them. If they can’t intimidate, they can’t get what they want and they will leave you alone. Compassionate non-compliance. It’s a wonderful tool and it works.

To learn more – get my book The Bully Vaccine. If your child is suffering from more severe or chronic bullying, join the site and get the toolkit. 

Leave a Reply