Responding to accusations of being a Bully!

The 10th of October is Mental Health Day!

Thus now is an ideal time to consider the issue of bullying.

Anti-bullying campaigns are everywhere these days.  And rightly so!  Bullying has a significant negative impact on mental health and numerous other aspects of life. However the anti-bullying programs appear to be lacking in effectiveness, as bullying is still a major issue for our society.

Part of this relates to issues around the commonly used definition of bullying which makes it relatively easy for ‘bullies’ to get away with their actions.  I suspect the intention behind the issues is to protect people from inaccurately being accused.  It is more effective to discuss what you can do when accused of being a ‘bully’ and you genuinely are not one?

The Australian Human Rights Commission (2017) states:

‘Bullying is when people repeatedly and intentionally use words or actions against someone or a group of people to cause distress and risk to their wellbeing.  These actions are usually done by people who have more influence or power over someone else, or who want to make someone else fell less powerful or helpless.’

The major issue with the definition when it states to intentionally…cause distress and risk to their wellbeing.  This is purely because individuals say  ‘I didn’t intend to distress them or risk their wellbeing’  ‘I did not intent to bully’.

As a result, too often, they get away with inappropriate behavior.  Individuals involve rarely intend to be a ‘bully’.  They don’t want the label.  And often there is no intent to ‘do harm or risk wellbeing’, simply because the idea may not have cross their minds. They are not thinking about the other at all.

What they are thinking of and do intend is to ‘have their own way’.  The do intend to use fear to gain control over others.  They do intend to use their, actual or perceived, position of power to ensure what they want is achieved.  They may intend to ‘get back’ at the perceived injustice that someone ‘would not go along with their wishes’ or ‘made them look bad’, for having done a perceived wrong.  These are the intentions of a ‘bully’.  These intentions result in the intimidating and coercive behaviors that cause the distress and risk to wellbeing.

Another, more useful, definition of Bullying is:

‘the use of force, threat, or coercion to abuse, intimidate, or aggressively dominate others. The behaviour is often repeated and habitual. One essential prerequisite is the perception, by the bully or by others, of an imbalance of social or physical power, which distinguishes bullying from conflict (Juvonen, J. Graham, S., 2014).

Fully fledged bullies, while denying they are bullies, know they are doing the wrong thing.  Their timing and sneakiness indicates this.  They behave differently in front of others, especially those they perceive as having more power than themselves.  They hide and actively deny their actions.   Yet they believe they have the right to do as they do.

At the same time it does happen that people feel they are being bullied, treated inappropriately, when it is genuinely not intended.   Yet regardless of the intention when it is experienced as bullying the same negative impact can occur and it is important to deal constructively with the incident.  These situations maybe because:

The accused has poor relationship or communication skills or

The target’s individual perspective

Resulting in misunderstandings.

This reality highlights the need to remember that ‘Bullying usually is a relationship issue and thus relationship solutions are recommended’ (National Centre Against Bullying, 2017).  At the same time there is a limit to the potential effectiveness of relationship solutions.

If there is no mutuality in the relationship discussing the issue in the relationship is not likely to work.  Too often it only makes things worse for cooperative individuals. Someone who believes they have rights of dominance may ‘go along’ with the ‘orders’ from the higher power, but they are also likely to find another way to achieve their intention.   This escalates rather than resolves the issue.   In such cases further protective action is required on behalf of the ‘other’ or ‘target’.   These situations are not the focus of this article.

Today we look at when there is no intention of bullying, or harm, or force and there is respectful mutuality in the relationship.  In these situations the way to respond to accusations of bullying is very simple: Listen and then ADDE value.

You need to Listen to the accusation and accept that is the others experience, despite your intention. Respond to their experience.

Apologise this lets the other now you didn’t mean for them to experience what they did. This action also reminds you that you have made a mistake and need to take corrective action, even if it was only to increase awareness of the others perspective.

Demonstrate your good will by reassuring the other. This includes: addressing their concerns; explaining your intention; where appropriate explain the policies and procedures you are following; and ask for and carry out suitable actions to repair the harm. It may take time to build or rebuild trust.

Discuss the situation until both parties are clear and comfortable with the intention of the communication and relationship.

Enhance your skills in order to prevent a similar situation occurring again. It is very important to follow through. Where required, ensure skill development occurs.

If you have been accused of being a ‘bully’ first be honest with yourself, do you think you have the right to dictate to others?  Or perhaps you have a right to ‘get even’?  Do you treat those you perceive as having more power than yourself differently to those who you perceive to have less power than yourself?   If neither of these is the case and your intention is for a mutually respectful relationship, an appropriate response to an accusation of bullying is to Listen and ADDE value.

 

Australian Human Rights Commission NA What is bullying? https://www.humanrights.gov.au/what-bullying-violence-harassment-and-bullying-fact-sheet accessed 8th October 2017

Juvonen, J.; Graham, S. (2014). “Bullying in Schools: The Power of Bullies and the Plight of Victims”. Annual Review of Psychology. Annual Reviews. 65: 159–85. PMID 23937767doi:10.1146/annurev-psych-010213-115030.   Via https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bullying

National Centre Against Bullying Definition of Bullying https://www.ncab.org.au/bullying-advice/bullying-for-parents/definition-of-bullying/ accessed 8th October 2017

 

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Pain is a Form of Communication.

Pain is an uncomfortable sensation we experience.   It is uncomfortable for the specific purpose of drawing our attention.  Pain is a message, a form of innermost communication, to let us know there is a change that maybe harmful.   Often the discomfort is instantly interpreted as potentially or actually harmful.  Yet this is not always the case.

Sometimes the discomfort is because we are not familiar with the process that is being carried out.  Learning is an excellent example.  When we go through the learning process, ideas we have established, practices we are use to, may need to be broken down to enable a rebuilding of a more complex idea or skill.   This breaking down and integrating process and cause a sensation of discomfort.  Yet if we want to grow in our ideas and skills then this is a necessary process.  It in itself is not going to harm us.  It maybe uncomfortable but it is OK.

Indeed before long the process will settle down and a little later we’ll be established in our new knowledge or skill level.   Until the next developmental sprout, that is. If we do this often enough we’ll adapt and recognise the learning process, become familiar with the sensation and the discomfort will be no more.  Instead we’ll go ahh the learning process. YES!

Sometimes we look at the source of pain and can instantly see the cause and know what to do. Damn a paper cut.  Oh well, its OK.  I just got to stop this blood flow.  Oh no that’s a massive deep cut, it looks like I’ll need stitches.  Best go to the doctor.  AWWWW looks and feels like a broken leg I need help.  Call an ambulance.   Generally we are well trained in dealing with such forms of pain.

Other times we don’t know what is going on.  Something hurts, and we don’t understand.  In these situations we might ask for help.  We might distract our self, until we can’t ignore the pain any longer.  Then we ask for help.  When we don’t understand what is happening it is so much easier if it is physical pain.  Too often psychological and emotional pain is ignored.

This is the worst kind of pain, in my mind, because, too often, we are taught it is a weakness and we simply need to toughen up.  As a consequence we feel we have to live with, deal with it on our own.  Yes it is true there are sources of pain we have to live with.  Life is full of painful experiences.  However the idea we have to manage them on our own or we ought not even have them is a problem.

Yes the discomfort can be in your thoughts, however it is still telling you something isn’t going well for you.  The source still needs to be identified so you can determine an appropriate course of action.  Denying the pain, pretending it doesn’t exist; being afraid to ask for support will only make it worse.

Remember pain is a form of communication.  It is telling you something needs your attention.  Pay attention, identify and evaluate the source, is it really potentially harmful?  Whether it is or not it is important to acknowledge the message, identify the source and develop a pain management plan.  You may need assistance with this.  This is definitely the case if you can’t identify the source or managing the source is beyond your ability or know how.

Always listen to your innermost communication.  It’s not knowing and being alone with the pain that is ineffective for responding to the message.   Ask someone, get help. Whether it is physical or psychological the message of potential harm still needs to be attended to otherwise it will keep growing until it has your attention.

Manners: A better way?

What has happened to manners and being polite?  A question so commonly asked today. We need to be polite!   It was driven into many of us as children.   Say ‘please’ ‘thank you’ and ‘sorry’.   It all sounds rather good and nice.  The problem was we were trained to do this.  That is ‘do it’ even when we don’t ‘mean it’.  Worse still he had to accept others insincere politeness and act on it!

Being polite and respectful somehow drifted into social correctness and insincerity. Rather than the appropriate respectful use of the phrases, please, thank you and sorry, the deep meaning of them has been lost.   Consideration of others drifted into self-denial and disrespect or worse.  Little white lies, some call it.  In the name of being kind!

 I don’t see how disrespect and insincerity are ‘good’ or ‘nice’ or ‘kind’. Do you?

‘Please’ a respectful request, to me, has almost become a begging.   Worse I have noticed often there is an element of expectation attached to it. I said ‘please’ so you have to do it. Ouch! What happened to the right to say no.

Please don’t get me wrong, I am all for requesting.  Demanding is not a first choice, it too takes away a right of choice. Y et sometimes, when boundaries are broken, a demand actually becomes appropriate.  I just think I don’t need to beg or expect my fulfilment from one particular source.  If you say no, I can ask someone else.

‘Please’ really is about letting the ‘other’ know they have a choice.   So the phrases:    Could you? Would you? Often seems more fitting to me.

‘Thank you’, an automatic couple of words so often empty and lacking a sense of gratitude.   Come on you know what I mean.   They said ‘thank you’ but was it a genuine appreciation or just empty words?

Appreciation radiates a sense of connection and satisfaction that draws one in, so we can do it all again.  That is what is it about.  We want to make a difference.

 Genuine appreciation and gratitude guides us to use our energy where it makes a difference.

Did you like it?   Did it make a difference for you?  If so, say ‘thank you’ with ‘meaning’ and draw that experience in some more.  Acknowledge what you like.  Say thank you with appreciation, so the source knows it wasn’t wasting its time and energy.  Believe me, you will experience more pleasure this way.

‘Oh sorry’, now I can do it all again.  What!  No that’s not what ‘sorry’ is about!  Yet isn’t that a really common practice today?  ‘I said sorry, what more do you want?’

Well actually I don’t like it, so I don’t want it.   I want to experience something different.

A genuine ‘sorry’ is about recognising an inappropriate action and correcting it.

The words are empty if there is no experiential difference for the ‘other’.  Yet this doesn’t mean you have to change for others, to fit in with them all the time. T he trick is understanding what is important to you and being able to let go of what isn’t.  Being creative enough to find ways to meet everyone’s needs when appropriate.  Sometimes this means looking at our priorities and remembering to let go of ‘others’ so they can grow.

It is unfortunate that being polite, intended as respectfully considerate of others, has become a form of social correctness.   This social correctness is what concerns me.   That is when good manners are token empty gestures or requires us to go along with the social norms and commonplace behaviors that reinforce disconnection and lack of authenticity.

The genuine use of requests, appreciation and appropriate behavior adjustment, along with candid caring communication lead to more fulfilment and life satisfaction.  Yet candid communication maybe portrayed as disrespectful, in reality, I think this claim is a means to prevent growth and maintain questionable social practices.

Learn to speak candidly with respectful kindness, and how to develop relationships where you know the other has your best interests at heart and will support you being your self!  And that you will do the same for them.   Let others know what you appreciate and that you are aware they have a right to say No. 

The Importance of Self-Care

Monday 24th of July is International Self-Care Day.   In honor of the day lets acknowledge the importance of Self-Care and consider how we can enhance our Self-Care skills.  For Self-Care is our first and primary role and responsibility.   It is about honoring our health and wellbeing, as well those around us.

Effective Self-Care is the practice of constructively paying attention to, and fulfilling one’s own needs, so as to nourish and maintain one’s health and wellbeing.

Constructively refers to being effective and respectful, respectful of our self as well as of others.  To be effective and respectful we must be aware of our own needs, be able to distinguish our self from others and recognise that we have separate and often different needs and desires.   We need to believe in our ability to fulfil those needs, while considering others’.  Finally we need the skills to consider varies options, before selecting and actioning the most appropriate way to have the need(s) meet.

As a babe we did not hesitate to let others know our needs until others fulfilled them, or we learnt helplessness.   As we grew we developed skills to fulfill our needs and desires or remained in a space of learnt helplessness and decided we wouldn’t have what we wanted.   Some of us learnt effective Self-Care skills.  We were empowered.   The result being we had the skills for a fulfilling and satisfying life; we experience health, wellbeing, quality relationships, personal success and how to deal with the challenges of life. Unfortunately many of us did not.

Nourishing yourself in a way that helps you blossom in the direction you want to go is attainable,  and you are worth the effort.  Deborah Day

If we have unfulfilled needs they tend to fester and break out.  They may break out as irritation, passive aggressive or outright aggressive behaviors.  These behaviors have damaging effects on our health, wellbeing, relationships, and consequently our life.   As an adult it is our responsibility to develop our Self-Care skills so we can be both self-determined and respectful.   To do this we need the skills of self-awareness, empathy, creativity, negotiation, decision-making, action taking, and accountability.   Learning these skills are Self-Care essentials.

Self-Care means being able to give the best of yourself,  rather than what is left of yourself.   Katie Reed

If you already have many of these skills, in honor of Self-Care Day I suggest you put aside time to consider an act of kindness for your self and your loved one’s and action it as soon as possible.   For kindness is another foundation of Self-Care.

If you are struggling with your personal Self-Care, I recommend giving yourself permission to not only determine but also meet your personal need and desires.   First steps include taking the time to consider what actions make you feel better and which do not.  AND committing to doing more of what helps you feel better.  Start with the simple things.   Perhaps taking time to read a good book, talk with a friend, sitting down to savor a nourishing bowl of fruit salad, or vegetable soup.   Importantly, know you deserve to enjoy your life and that the little things that nourish you are the backbone to doing so.

What action are you taking today to enhance your Self-Care?

How are you celebrating International Self-Care Day?

Other potential resources:

For specific ideas of Self-Care check out: 45 Simple Self-Care Practices for a Healthy Mind, Body, and Soul.

Self-Awareness exercises.

The Art of Empathy by Karla McLaren

Crucial Accountability by Joseph Grenny, Kerry Patterson, and Ron McMillan

Befriending Your Emotions II: A better way.

Emotional intelligence and health are key to your over all health, wellbeing and life satisfaction.   This is because emotional health is the foundation to effective relationships and as social beings we are dependent on others.  This dependence is embedded in our physiology.   It is deeply ingrained within our pain, pleasure, survival, and growth aspects.   Emotional health is part of our physiological, as well as, our psychological beingness.  Emotional intelligence has four key aspects: self-awareness, self-regulation, self-determination and other-awareness or relationship management.   Each aspect builds upon the previous.

We need to be self-aware, have self-regulation and determination to be able to effectively be other-aware, so we can have fulfilling relationships. Fulfilling relationships are key to our health and life satisfaction.  To move from a place of disconnection to self-awareness, from survival mode to personal growth and life satisfaction we need to Befriend our Emotions and connect with our self and live a self-determined life.   This in turn supports us to experience fulfilling relationships and life satisfaction.   This is not up for debate it is reality.

While we need to build up from self-awareness, developmentally, I will encourage you to begin with self-determination.   This is because as adults we are responsible for our own life.   It is essential to let go of any thought that it is up to someone else.   As an adult you can and are responsible for making decisions for yourself and take responsibility for the outcome.  This is the foundation for ownership of your life.   So if you are looking for life satisfaction and fulfilling relationships, begin by give yourself permission to claim your own life, to be yourself, to meet your own needs and desires and be responsible for yourself.

Next, identify your needs, preferences, desires and values.  What is important to you?   This is the process of being self-aware. To be self-aware is the opposite of the disconnection experienced when suppressing and denying emotions.   It requires you to slow down and pay attention; this is paying proper attention, to what your body and emotions are telling you.  To develop your inner connection, begin by distinguishing between what feels right or comfortable and what does not.  This is the first indication of your needs, preferences, desires and values.

Once you have identified your needs, preferences, desires and values you can begin to fulfill them.  You can start with one or two, if you like, just start somewhere.   If required give yourself permission to meet the chosen needs or desires.  Remember to do so respectfully.   As you work with your selection and become more comfortable with the process, other needs and desires will reveal themselves.   And so your journey continues.

From there you can begin to distinguish between different emotions and what they are trying to tell you.   Start with those emotions that are strongly pushing their way into your awareness.  Then move onto listening for your emotions before they become so intense.   All the emotions have subtle forms, just many of us don’t recognise them.

Self-regulation really becomes important as we tap into suppressed and denied emotions, we can become rather reactive, rather than respectfully responsive.  To be respectful of all it is important to respond to your needs, desires and values effectively.   If you don’t these physiological and psychological needs will seep out, cause reactions (unconscious actions) with your loosing the power of choice. Self-regulation is foundational to the Power of Choice.

At the same time be patient with yourself as you move from a place of ‘reactive’ action to one of responsive action by choice.   You are developing your ability to practice authenticity; your actions align with your intentions, things won’t always go smoothly.   Yet you are still moving forward if you keep cycling back to self-determination and focus on improvement.

You need the skills of self-awareness, self-regulation and self-determination before you can learn to manage relationships effectively.   These skills promote your ability to be authentic, fulfill your needs and desires plus distinguishing yourself from others.   Becoming other aware, recognising others as separate individuals, will enable you to manage your relationships, respectful cooperation relationships based in equality and mutuality, effectively.   All of this is embedded in your physiology such that by developing these skills you will become more comfortable, satisfied, healthier and happier.   You will enjoy a more satisfying and pleasurable life.

Befriending Your Emotions: I The problem of emotional denial

Our emotions are our friends.  Our best friends, they are undyingly caring about us and doing the very best they can in our best interest.  Emotions let us know what is working for us and what is not. They are based in the aspects of our survival, growth, pleasure, and pain physiology.  They are action requiring neurological process that helps us understand what our needs and preferences are.  Who we are as an individual, and the action we need to take to take care of our self, to move toward growth and life.  Rather than drift, in survival mode, towards death

It is unfortunate that society, predominantly, conditions us to believe that there are ‘good’ and ‘bad’ emotions.   That we need to stay away from our emotions and be rational.   It is important, they say, not to make the mistake of being emotional! ‘Bad’ emotions are unwelcome and a problem.  While ‘good’ emotions are what we want to experience all the time.   Yet be careful not to express those too much.   So if a bad emotion starts we are taught to deny it and suppress it.   While good emotions are ok, in moderation, or we have an unrealistic expectation that we can have then all the time.

Importantly we are NOT taught how to listen to our emotions, let alone respond to them.   We are not taught we are valuable beings that need to be cared for.   The truth is we are valuable beings that deserve, indeed have the right, to have our needs fulfilled. We need to listen to our emotions.  We need to pay attention to them; they are trying to tell us something important.   They are trying to tell us how to care for our self and how to live a fulfilling life.

Further this disconnection results in the common practices that leave individual’s experiencing them confused, perhaps wondering what is wrong with them, generally leaving them feeling unsafe and alone.   Indeed these practices are so common it is no surprise so many of us are struggling with a sense of not belonging and loneliness.  A critical truth is, is that when we are feeling unsafe we ourselves tend to practice these actions of emotional absurdity.   They are, at least initially, protective behaviors used when we do not know a better way and feel unsafe.

These common practices include:

Lying about one’s feelings

Pretending we aren’t feeling what we clearly are, others can see

Avoiding sensitive subjects

Using language to hide, obscure & skirt critical issues

Claiming to be rational when we are emotional

Pretending to like what we do not

Attacking people who frighten us, without realizing we are full of fear

Stopping forward movement/change (growth) because we are angry or full of grief. Yet no one can speak the truth, for we will claim it is them, not us, because our denial is so strong we project our emotions onto them.

Words spoken say one thing, the body expresses another and often a different action is taken.  At some level we can all see this emotional absurdity, lack of authenticity, it is very confusing and leaves us vulnerable to further harm.  Indeed the control of and disconnection from our emotions is the first step of the harms of controlling relationships.

By disconnecting us from our inner life and confusing us with emotional untruths and training us to be externally directed we provide perfect targets for abusive, controlling relationships and escalating violence.  As a consequence reconnecting with our inner life and befriending our emotions is the first real step in reducing violence in our society. The truth is emotional awareness and empathy are required for our health, our wellbeing, making decisions and quality relationships.

By befriending our emotions we reconnect with our self

and travel the path toward authenticity,

genuine caring relationships and

a fulfilling life.  

Will you choose to travel this path?

 

 

References and further reading:

Asatryan, K. 2016 Stop Being Lonely New World Library

McLaren, K. 2013 Art of Empathy Sounds True