When we are talking about bullying, we are talking about habit formation. And habits are hard to break, but there is a science to it.
In general, it takes about 30 days of practice to make a new behavior a practice. It takes about the same amount of time to unlearn a habit. It doesn’t matter if we are talking about bullying or smoking or changing the route you drive to work.
We all have habits that we establish so that we don’t have to think about. We are on automatic pilot as far as that behavior is concerned. Bullying can manifest in a similar way. Some people, that’s just how they have learned to deal with not getting their way. They show aggression – and get their way.
I gave a talk the other day to some professionals about this and they were asking about application. The truth is – for some people this is a tactic, for others, they bully pathologically and the different ways people engage in this behavior is going to dictate how quickly they respond to the techniques I teach.
I liken this to lying. Some people lie strategically, some lie pathologically. You can tell the difference because people who can’t help themselves will lie about everything. In fact, the more bizarre and totally unnecessary the lie is, the most likely it is that the person in question is not in control of their lying. The same is true of bullying.
For people who are aggressive strategically, they will stop as soon as they learn it isn’t working for them. Most people fall into this category.
Is it pathological?
For people who do this pathologically, who aren’t in control, they will blow out spectacularly, meaning that when that losing their reward will cause them to essentially freak out completely.
How long does it take? Well, are you dealing with someone who is in control of their behavior or not? If they are, a few days to a few weeks tops. If they aren’t, it can take longer. The good news is that most people will blow out and stop in a few weeks. For those that can’t or won’t, they will end up getting themselves in a lot of trouble as their behavior becomes worse and worse as they descend into the throws of behavioral extinction.
Don’t feel guilty about that if it happens. You are giving people an opportunity to behave as they should. If they don’t take it – that is on them, not on you.