Bullies aren't all big and muscle-y. Bullies come in all shapes and sizes — and it's not like you can tell who they are by what they look like. You can only tell a bully by their actions — they make themselves feel powerful by threatening, embarrassing, or hurting others. If you have ever been around a bully or been picked on by a bully, you know how hurtful they can be. But, there are things you can do to stay out of a bully's way.
Make friends and lots of them — there's safety in numbers. A bully is less likely to approach you if you're surrounded by pals. Try to be friendly and respectful to everyone—smile at someone if you make eye contact in the hallways, and if you dig someone's cool new shoes, tell them.
If a bully is talking smack about you, keep in mind all the good stuff you know about yourself. Do things that you are good at. Can you spell like a dictionary? Enter a spelling bee. Run like the wind? Join the track team. Sing like an angel? Choir is calling your name. Try something new; you may discover a talent you never knew you had. Take tennis lessons or audition for the school play. Bonus: you'll meet new people!
Stand up for yourself! Practice what you might say if someone starts picking on you. Saying the words a couple of times will make you feel sure of yourself. One word to the wise: Never start a discussion or argue with a bully, even if you've got a zinger that's begging to be zung. You just want to get them off your back, not make them angry. Click here to see some great comeback lines.
Check out the way you act and be aware of your body language. How you carry yourself can bring on a bully. Slouching, looking at the ground or feet, and fidgeting make people think that you are afraid or nervous. Try to walk with your head up, make eye contact, and smile. A bully is less likely to single you out if you are the picture of self-confidence.
Ignore insults or name-calling. It'll be hard, but stay calm and don't let them see you sweat. Take a deep breath and try not to show that you are upset or angry. Above all, don't believe for one second what they're saying. Bullies feed on attention and are just trying to get a reaction from you. It's easier to give them the brush off if you don't let them get under your skin. They'll get bored and move on.
Avoid getting sucked into a scuffle, even if it means losing your stuff — you're safety is way more important than your shoes! The only time you should ever fight back is when you have to defend yourself. Even then, keep eyes open for an escape route. Chances are, if someone wants to fight, they know they have a good chance of winning.
Don't be afraid to tell an adult if you're being bullied. You are NOT a snitch if you tell an adult you know that someone is hurting you. If you have tried to stop someone from bothering you and it's not working, get someone you trust involved to help you. And if you see someone else in the same boat, find an adult to help. Get the problem out in the open. Once people know about it, the bully is no longer in control. Not telling anyone — especially because the bully told you not to — is just making him or her feel more powerful.
Have a few one-liners in your pocket to pull out if you need them. Things like, "That's funny, but enough already okay?" or "I don't do this to you. You should really think about that" can help defuse a tense situation and keep you out of harm's way. While you're coming up with your witty one-liners, keep in mind you're trying to take the wind out of the bully's sails, not add fuel to the fire with a major burn. Embarrassing the bully in front of everyone won't make your life any easier.
- Division of Population Health/School Health Branch
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
4770 Buford Highway, Northeast, Mailstop K-27
Atlanta, GA 30341
TTY: (888) 232-6348
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