Bullying in Brief
Issues of terminolgy
Much needless controversy arises over definitional issues. Once it is understood that bullying involves the abuse of power over people there is little more to be said.
Yet arguing persists - and takes energy out of what we need to do. Here is what I think.
- There is the question of whether aggressive acts must be 'repeated' to qualify as bullying. Common usage says no. People can be bullied on one occasion and may need help because they have been upset and because they fear it might recur. The current position of the UK Anti-bullying Alliance www.anti-bullyingalliance.org.uk/ sensibly says that it is 'usually' repeated, but can happen once. I agree.
- There is the question of whether bullying should be differentiated from harassment. Again refer to common usage. 'Bullying' and 'harassment' are terms often used interchangeably. With the latter we generally have in mind some unpleasant form of social discrimination, such as racial harassment. Sometimes there is a need to legislate accordingly, but the behaviour still amounts to bullying: that is the systematic abuse of power.
- There is the question of whether or when we should use the terms 'bully' and 'victim.' Common sense should help us decide. If you want to stigmatise someone and get them to oppose you, call him or her a bully. If you want to permanently dis-empower people, keep insisting that they are lifelong, irredeemable victims. However, if you want them to cooperate with you or be empowered you will do nothing of the sort. You will focus on their behaviour, not their character, and encourage them to behave better. BUT this does not mean we should close our eyes to the fact that some are much more prone to bully and/or be bullied than others and need special attention.
- For readers who are interested in how the term 'bullying' has evolved and some controversies about how it should be defined, have a look here...Defining bullying: a new look at an old concept?