The answer to the question – does it help to ignore a bully – is complicated. It depends on what you mean by – ignore and what exactly is happening.
Behavioral science tells us that to get unwanted behavior, like bullying, to stop, we need to stop rewarding it. Ignoring a bully is kind of sort of a way to stop rewarding the bully.
The problem is – it’s not always clear what you are doing, when you ignore a bully. It also depends on what exactly is happening.
For instance – if a bully is in your face – you can’t exactly – ignore them and attempting to do so may be read as fear or acquiescence – which the bully will count as a reward.
The only time you should ignore a bully is when ignoring them will deny them their reward. So – if something is happening online or via text. Just ignore it. They won’t necessarily know if you didn’t see it or what is going on. But not responding – and acting as if you didn’t see it at all – is incredibly effective with cyber forms of bullying.
How bullying works
Bullies bully because they get something out of it. If they stop getting that reward, they will try harder to get the reward and then eventually give up.
In order to get them to stop – you have to remove the reward. Ignoring them rarely does that. It is much better to think of a way you can actively respond to them that will remove their reward. Something you can say – that is polite and calm (so they know you are not bothered by them (being angry counts as being bothered by them), and so bystanders know – what the bully did was not ok.
In other words, it is much better to stand up to a bully, politely and nicely, and remove their reward without attacking them. This is easier than it sounds and really only requires you to think about what you want to accomplish differently.
The reason I keep teaching people to respond with compassion is because it puts you in the right frame of mind to respond in a way that a) removes the bully’s reward and b) allows you to be seen as a nice person when you do it.
Attitude is everything. Don’t cower from a bully. DOn’t ignore them unless you truly can. Just – be nice and polite and don’t give them what they want. Which is usually – they want you to be afraid, scared or upset.
Really – that’s it. Now – what they will do in respond to you doing that – is what is really important. Because – all removing the reward does – is start the behavioral extinction process. To actually get them to stop requires a little bit of know how which is beyond the scope of this post. The good news is – I have free materials to teach you it.
So – if you want to learn more about how exactly to train a bully to stop using just your words – get my book, join the website or take one of my online courses. My why bullies bully course is free over at youtube – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_2Z2gtEtbpA&t=14s