Brian Can Help

Defeating a bully with one strategy

August 31, 2023 Brian R. King, MSW Season 1 Episode 4
Brian Can Help
Defeating a bully with one strategy
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Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

What if there was a way to combat bullying without letting it define your self-worth or color your worldview? Discover a transformative strategy that reframes your perspective from a defensive stance to one of observation and curiosity. Personal experiences with bullying ignited my passion to help others navigate these tricky waters, sparking a journey through traditional advice, such as "developing a thicker skin", and leading me towards a more effective alternative.

In this deeply personal account, I share my experiences with bullying from my school years to my children's experiences, and how these incidents shaped my approach to addressing such situations. I present a unique method that doesn't involve armoring up or fighting fire with fire, but instead, focuses on deflecting the bullying back to the bully, maintaining your self-worth and reinforcing your view of a kinder world. Join me as I guide you through this practical advice, using personal stories and real-life examples, to help reinforce this empowering strategy. Remember, the world is full of kind, helpful people, and no one deserves bullying. Let's focus on the good in ourselves and others, while our perspective and community help us withstand unkindness.

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Brian has a Master's Degree in Social Work and is the father of three boys with Autism and ADHD. After receiving the same diagnoses himself, he went on to write 5 books and become a recognized specialist in the field. With a unique approach to helping parents and educators connect with their children who live with these unique challenges, Brian's captivating, interactive presentations and programs continue to change lives around the world. His message of self-compassion, resilience and the importance of working together is one we all need to hear. You can see all the exciting things Brian is up to at

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Brian R. King, MSW:

Greetings, my friends. A client once asked me to help with helping his child develop a thicker skin in response to verbal bullying from classmates teasing about your idiosyncrasies, your quirkiness. That results in your feelings being hurt and maybe even you being excluded. So that we're on the same page. When we say bullying, we're defining it in the simplest terms. We're thinking of bullying as an aggressive behavior that involves an imbalance of power repeatedly targeting and intimidating a vulnerable person. I was personally bullied through my school years, from kindergarten all the way up until, I'd say, my sophomore year of high school. Anything from being chased, hunched in the stomach, someone spit on my hair once in junior high. They're verbal threats you want to kick your butt after school or that you're dead meat. And in second grade I missed a total of a month in school because of the bullying. The idea of going to school would cause so much anxiety I get sick to my stomach. It was even worse. The teacher was a prolific screamer. It was like she yelled about everything, so it was traumatic enough just being in her presence. My own kids were bullied as well, especially my oldest. He became suicidal in middle school years because the bullying was so severe and I had to pull him out of school at home school him because the school wouldn't address it. Now back to my client's request, which was how do I help my son develop a thicker skin? I responded to him by saying you don't want a thicker skin because a thicker skin suggests that you need armor to shield you from what's being thrown at you. Armor requires you to see only through the lens of threat Makes sense Some people truly are a threat but get me wrong there and it makes sense to be more aware when you are around them. But there's more you can do besides. Exhaust yourself by staying on guard so often and for extended periods of time that anxiety becomes your default setting. Now I want to suggest an alternative to armoring up fighting fire with fire or, my personal favorite, just ignoring it. That's something my mom used to say to me a lot Just ignore it, just pretend you didn't hear it. Sorry, my all or nothing brain doesn't work like that. What I suggest, instead of fighting fire with fire or just ignoring it, I suggest you try deflecting the bullying back to the bully, and you don't need to utter a single word to do this. Okay, now let me tell you a story that informs this strategy. Way back in the day, when I started college somewhere in the early 90s, I took a criminal justice class and the teacher was this really cool guy with an amazing story. He'd been a cop, a prison guard, martial arts instructor and a bunch of other things I can't remember after all these years. Well, he started telling us a particular story in class one day, and this has become a principle for how I show up in the world. The story goes like this he took one of his classes criminal justice students to tour a prison and to enter the prison visitors had to walk within view of the prisoners who were in a large fenced in area. I'm not saying they were like six feet away, they were probably like a good distance. So they got a sense that these were people. These were people behind the fence, but they couldn't quite make out the faces. In any case, they had to walk down this path that went past the prisoners. While they were walking towards the entrance, many of the prisoners males rushed the fence and started cat calling, hooting and hollering and saying all kinds of vulgar things to all the women that were in the criminal justice class. So my teacher shared at that moment that he asked his students to stop walking. Then he told his students this Take note, folks, these men have one opportunity to make an impression on you and this is what they choose. Let that sink in for a minute. Now back to the scenario in the classroom, where your child is being verbally bullied. I suggest that instead of going on the defense and putting up armor, you want to teach the child and learn this for yourself, by the way how to deflect the words of the bully back. But your ability to deflect starts earlier in the day, actually before you even encounter any bully. Because as you look around, look around the world, your neighborhood, wherever you drive, however you get where you're going, you're going to see examples of kindness. You're going to see people greeting each other in a friendly way, stranger helping another stranger. If you're driving to work, maybe you're going to see one driver let another driver. In all these little acts that escape us, because maybe we take them for granted, it's important to remind yourself daily that bullies are the exception in a world where the majority of people are kind. But you don't notice it if you're on threat detection all the time, and neither does your child. They don't have a balanced perspective of what the world looks like, because it's all about looking for the dangers. Here's where the deflection comes in, and you're going to say this between your own ears. No need to get into an argument with someone set on bullying you. The strategy is acknowledging in your mind the person bullying and, with a curious mind, think this Hmm, I've seen a lot of things today. I've seen people being kind, so other people being helpful, and now I see you and of all the things you could have put into this moment, this is what you're going with Interesting. You go back to what you were doing. You see how this also depersonalizes the bullying. It keeps the behavior with the person doing the bullying because you're just being an observer. You're watching somebody act out a play to have a thicker skin, to create armor. It has to be first and foremost about you. Meaning the person's words and behavior need to be about you. That's when you feel bullied and defensive and the need to put armor. But when you make the shift to curiosity as opposed to being on defense, that's not about you. Curiosity is about observation, being a witness just observing something. You don't have to be a participant. Also, the fact the world is full of kind, helpful people, helps keep your spirits up, empowers you to show up more supportably for others and accepting help from these people when you need it. That's another conversation, because you and I know people who believe asking for help is an admission of failure. So I hope this strategy is helpful for you. Feel free to reach out to me if you have any questions about it. Here's the bottom line by deflecting bullying back to the bully through curiosity, we can avoid the need to armor up or ignore hurtful behavior. This strategy keeps the focus on the bully's choices, while reminding us that there is more kindness than cruelty in the world. No one deserves bullying. Maintaining perspective and community can help us withstand unkindness while bringing out the good in ourselves and others. Well, thank you for listening and sharing these episodes with others. I appreciate you greatly. I'll catch you next time.

When I was bullied
My own kids were bullied
An alternative to "just ignoring it"
How to deflect the bullying back
The takedown
The power of curiosity
You have one opportunity
Bullies are the exception
It was never about you
Keeping your spirits up