7 Time-Tested Ways to Deal With Bullies

Last week a video made the rounds of a group of bullies verbally terrorizing some poor woman on a school bus. It was a pretty awful example of humanity at work, and if anyone watching the video wondered if we should just pull the plug on this whole civilization-building thing, they could hardly be blamed. There was a happy ending of sorts to this story, with donation links going viral faster than the video itself, resulting in anonymous strangers raising a few hundred thousand dollars to help the victim. Which is, I guess, a nice thing for that poor woman, but hardly gets to the root of the problem: putting those boys inside of a volcano where they belong.

More generally, it represents several hundred thousand dollars thrown at one case of bullying, and not in any way helping the poor souls getting picked on off-camera. Here at Cracked, we're far more interested in helping the rest of these dorky, pointy-shoulder-bladed folk, knowing that they're probably a large part of our readership, what with our tendency to write wordy articles about history facts, littered with highbrow jokes about Proust and such.

Proust, seen here haunted by the memory of a long-forgotten mustache ride.

I know a bit about being bullied myself -- up until the end of Grade 11, I weighed about 45 pounds or so, and spent most of my lunch hours quietly reading Dateline transcripts beside my locker -- and have put more than a little thought into techniques to combat bullying. So, after poring through some of my old spite-filled Trapper Keepers, I synthesized those thoughts into something a little more coherent and less tear-stained. The result: a list of proven anti-bullying techniques, with their strengths and weaknesses listed below.

#7. Grinning, Bearing It

This is a classic piece of advice you're likely to receive from your gruff father or boozy, disinterested mother. And surprisingly, it's not completely off-base. Especially if the bullying is a temporary phenomenon, this will by far be the smoothest course to chart. Bullies tend to pick on anyone who stands out, and by playing the good sport and then sliding back into the general population, you'll reduce the odds of any future bullying occurring. If that sounds oddly familiar, it should: Being a kid is basically the same as being a herding animal, possibly because of their immature brains. Or strong grinding molars.

Later, one of these fish will be accused of still wearing Pull-Ups.

But this only works if you stand a chance of blending back into the background. If you're dealing with a persistent bully, or have some condition like red hair, where the bullying is likely to persist, it's possible that no amount of grinning and bearing it will help.

#6. Tattling

This can work very well for some people, particularly adults. Most of the acts that make up bullying, like verbal abuse or threats or assault, are, whoops, crimes, which, whoops, would land an adult bully in extremely hot shit. Even subtler stuff like workplace bullying is taken very seriously in most companies. An employer that doesn't act immediately to address any reported cases of bullying can soon find itself paying settlements for big cash money.

Or solid-gold scales.

In general, tattling effectively requires some foresight and understanding of how the world works, and what the consequences of tattling are likely to be. Is the bully going to get a meaningless punishment, some verbal warning, warning of more verbal warnings to come? Or is there a harsher, more permanent solution in store for the bully? Suspension? Expulsion? Propulsion?

And perhaps most important of all are the consequences to the tattler. For kids and teens, tattling is of course a very grave violation of the code of the schoolyard, which, sort of like Santa Claus, exists solely by the power of children's belief in it. At the heart of this "code" lies the premise that children should be able to handle their own problems, because fuck adults, that's why. Whether this is reasonable or not (as an adult, my thoughts on the subject are compromised), the fact that it's so widely believed is what's important here. By tattling, victims thumb their noses at the code, only isolating themselves further. Whatever relief they might feel from the tattling will quite possibly be trumped by worse bullying down the road.

#5. Make Yourself Look Larger

This is a favorite technique of cats and other small mammals, designed to make themselves look larger and less appetizing to any potential predator. Cats achieve this effect by arching their backs, which isn't something I recommend you try; it will at best make you look a bit shorter and fatter, if not imply that you have scoliosis, which would just be something else to get mocked for.

"Nice spine, no-spine."

But there's no reason to be so literal-minded and make yourself look actually bigger. Instead, just make yourself less of a target; figure out what's making you stick out, and change that immediately. Wear better clothes, get a haircut by a person who cuts hair for money and stop talking so much about Justin Bieber, who sucks now, and talk more about One Direction, who are the best.

#4. Fire

All bullies are weak against fire. All humans, really. There is something deeply unsettling about being set on fire, and that's something that can be taken advantage of, vis-a-vis setting a bully on fire.

However, like a double-edged metaphor, fire can bite you in the ass. Because if you do in fact set someone on fire, you are going to look like a crazy person, and be treated accordingly.

It turns out that fire can't solve every problem -- it won't solve fires, for example.

And this is actually where we run into an interesting problem with bullies and the bullied. One of the problems people who are getting bullied likely have is that they're not very good at realizing how they look to others. And when that lack of perspective is left to simmer for weeks and months in a stew of molten rage, it's possible to end up with someone who looks at fire and wonders, "Hey, why not?"

I'll take a stab at explaining why not, for anyone who happens to be getting bullied right now and has some fire ready to go. This is a path that will end with you in jail, or burned, or dead. And if those options don't sound that bad to you, well, you're wrong. Those are always the worst options open to anyone, at all times. Take another hard look at tattling, because if things are bad enough that you're about to set fire to something, then things are sure as shit bad enough to make tattling have some actual results. Someone out there is on your side; the Internet just barfed several hundred thousand dollars over someone who didn't think she had anyone on her side.

And assuming you do manage to steer you way through this without involving fire, you'll be pretty surprised to learn that life gets better. Nothing is worse than being a teenager, and although you may be having it worse than most, the simple passage of time is a guaranteed escape. Before too long you'll be something bigger and better, like a car owner, or a president. And even if those options don't pan out, you can always get into comedy writing, which seems to be a pretty popular path out of this type of mess.

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Chris Bucholz

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