To understand why bullying happens and how to stop it, we need to understand what the reward is for the bully. Bullying, is largely about social inclusion and exclusion.
It is well known that bullies will dehumanize their victims. Label them and treat them as “other” in order to socially isolate and exclude the victim.
This – otherism triggers our tribal instincts. We have a strong need to belong and experience ostracism as physical pain. If someone has the ability and authority to say who is IN and who is OUT of the group – they can control the group as everyone will basically do what needs to be done – to say IN.
This is a very simplified way of understanding the problem, and it certainly isn’t the only reason bullying happens. But it’s useful to think of the dynamic this way because it helps us do a couple of things.
It helps us not play the game.
If we know that the bullying is trying to exclude someone, we can counteract that by making sure to include them. Thus – denying the bully the power they were seeking. Yes – they will then try to exclude the person who stepped up to make sure people were included. If enough people are – excluded – they end up making a new group – that they can be IN on.
It can help us create new groups so we don’t need their group
Having your own IN group is really very healing emotionally. One of the great things about middle school is there are usually now enough kids that kids can find enough kids to have a group so the power of a bully to threaten them with social exclusion is lessened. If you aren’t in their group and don’t care if you are in their group their threat to expell you from a group you aren’t in – means – nothing. It’s very liberating.
It can help us contextualize racism & sexism and combat it
Racism is otherism. It’s a form of tribalism. Racism, is bullying. Attempts to separate people and isolate people is nothing more than bullying.
And like all bullying it’s costly and expensive and does material harm to the victims.
My request to all of you is – to understand – we need to tackle all forms of bullying and harassment. Do not think of sexual harassment and sexism as anything other than social exclusion. Do not think of racism as anything other than social exclusion.
When you see anyone socially excluding anyone for any reason. Take pro-active affirmative steps to include those people and DO NOT allow the bullies of the world to socially exclude entire groups from participation in society. The only people who should lose social status – is bullies.