Good day, welcome to “Bullies, Part Two”. Did you know bullying is a learned behavior? Yep, often bullying has been learned at home from abuse or prejudice-based attitudes or the bully is currently or has been bullied in the past. They use bullying to help them cope with a stressful situation or because of jealousy or insecurity. Eschia!

Most of us have had to deal with adult bullies. Bullies come in many forms, such as a controlling romantic partner, an intimidating boss or colleague, or a rowdy, condescending family member or neighbor. Sound familiar?

But a bully can also be a social acquaintance who humiliates you. An adult bully is usually aggressive and domineering. The key is to turn that aggression into respect by using a smart approach and assertive communication.

Priority number one is to keep safe, so leave uncomfortable situations. You can get help and support from various sources. Contact the police if you have been threatened or physically assaulted, or the NWT Human Rights Commission to file a complaint for harassment.

The Commission’s website defines types of harassment such as verbal, physical and online behaviours which are considered harassing.

“Following someone for the purposes of intimidation; threatening violence against someone; being repeatedly verbally abusive, swearing, degrading, or insulting an individual or group; and repeatedly humiliating or embarrassing someone.”

You can also file a complaint for “refusing to talk to or interact with someone; non-consensual physical contact; and posting threatening or insulting messages on social media, in text messages, or by email.”

Not cool, man.

If you’re being bullied at work, you can use the NWT Human Rights Act to file a complaint of workplace harassment and many workplaces have a bullying and harassment policy. For instance, the GNWT has the Harassment Free and Respectful Workplace Policy. There is also the Employment Standards Act to help you with your rights as an employee and your employer’s responsibilities. Right on!

For confidential support from trained counsellors 24/7, call the NWT Help Line at 1-800-661-0844. Various social agencies also have free counselling and many workplaces have an employee assistance program (EAP) through which you can get counselling.

Tips for dealing with a bully

If you want to deal with the bully yourself, keep your distance and keep your options open. You may feel like you’re “stuck” with a very difficult person, but “there’s more than one way to skin a cat,” as my dad used to say. Consult with trusted friends and advisors about different tactics to use, while keeping your safety as your top priority.

Remember, bullies push your buttons to get you off balance and get an advantage so they can exploit your weaknesses. Therefore, keep your cool so you can use good judgment to handle the situation. Sometimes you may need a strong and assertive response and other times you should simply act unimpressed by what the bully does. The trick is to maintain a high level of composure.

Don’t remain quiet and hide your suffering because of things like fear, embarrassment, denial, or feeling helpless or powerless. Being a quiet victim is mentally and emotionally unhealthy and bullies usually continue or worsen their behavior. So, talk to trustworthy friends, family, workplace confidants, or counselors to help you handle the challenge.

If you have to deal with a bully regularly, it’s important to stop potentially damaging patterns early by setting the tone of your relationship. Communicate in writing or have one or more witnesses present, and build a strong case of evidence by writing down facts, issues, agreements, and disagreements, with dates and times as they happen. You can also use a joint, formal response with the bully’s other victims. Now you’re talking.

And, being able to identify and state consequences for the bully’s actions are very important skills in dealing with bullies. If you effectively voice strong and reasonable consequences for the adult bully’s actions, it will make them stop and force a shift from violating to respect. Assertive communication skills can be found in many books and pamphlets.

If you are being bullied, please do not be a victim, and remember you are not the problem. If you are a bully, please speak to someone – help is available.

Roy Erasmus

Roy Erasmus Sr. Is a certified wellness counsellor who survived heart disease and a former member of the Legislative Assembly of the Northwest Territories.

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