Bullies come in all shapes and sizes. Bullying does, too.

When I was a little girl, I did something I’m not proud of–okay, I did lots of somethings, but this one is worth sharing. My sister and I were visiting our aunt and uncle. One of their other nieces was there as well. She wasn’t our cousin, as she was from the other side of the family. Alone with my sister, I said something snarky about Kathleen.

From out of nowhere, my aunt swooped in. She’d been on the other side of the camper, and I hadn’t seen her. Sadly, she’d heard me. She was angry, and rightfully so.

“What if I’d been Kathleen? How do you think she would feel hearing you say something like that?”

I would love to say I hadn’t thought about it, but that would have been a lie. I’d given it great thought, which is why I said what I did when I thought Kathleen couldn’t hear me. I hadn’t wanted to hurt her feelings. What I hadn’t considered was who else might hear.

That night taught me a great lesson. It went beyond the classic Bambi line of, “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say nothing at all.”

It was a lesson in connections. We never know who might hear our scathing words. We don’t know who is connected to whom. We don’t have a clue as to everyone’s life experiences, expectations, hurts, fears, friends or families. In short, we have no business being rude ever. It was a powerful lesson in, “If you can’t say it to their face, don’t say it at all.”

I would love to say I haven’t made this mistake since, but that would be a lie. I’m human. I have opinions. I talk way too much. However, since that night, I’ve tried really hard to be respectful to people individually, and to all groups of people when talking to others. I try to remember that words can hurt. Especially the ones that were never meant to be heard.

Tips and Tricks for Keeping Your Inner Bully Away

  • Stop talking the minute you feel compelled to start a sentence with, “I don’t mean to be rude…”, or “No offense, but….” I promise, you will be rude and offensive to someone.
  • Don’t say anything you wouldn’t say to that person’s face. If you can’t picture telling someone they are chubby or smelly or slow or ugly, don’t tell someone else. The grapevine is made up of lots of people with lots of unexpected connections. That person you think is chubby, smelly, slow and ugly will hear about it. I promise.
  • In fact, THINK before you speak. Is what you have to say: True, Helpful, Important, Nice or Kind? If not, keep your mouth closed, because all you are doing is gossiping. And gossip is always hurtful.

What tips do you have to help control your inner bully? How have you bullied someone without knowing it? What did you do after you realized you had hurt someone?

Curious minds want to know.

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About Cat Woods

I am a writer whose heart beats for juvenile literature. As a mother of four, a devoted wife and the half-owner of two dogs, I find more novel fodder on any given day than dust bunnies under the fridge. I'm also a strong advocate for literacy, family and unity. My life motto is that everybody deserves a chance.

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