Are You a Bully? Understanding the 5 Types of Bullying


This month we will be focusing on bullying – what it is, why people do it, what to do if you’re being bullied, and why it’s important not to play the victim.

Bullying is something we’re hearing about more and more as it becomes increasingly prominent in the media and a serious issue in many schools. According to various statistics, there is more bullying in grades 6, 7 and 8 at school, but that while the frequency of it fades during the later years, the affects of it can last a lifetime.

What is bullying? Being able to define and identify bullying is important for two reasons: so we can make sure we’re not bullying another person, and so we are aware when we are being bullied. While rare, it is possible that someone may not realise they are hurting another simply because they haven’t learnt to define good behaviour from bad. As such, understanding exactly what bullying is helps keep us all accountable.

Defining ‘Bullying’

Generally speaking, bullying is a deliberate action that attacks and hurts another person. It is often an abuse of power fueled by a desire to dominate, and usually delivered to someone who is defenseless or in some way inferior to the bully (e.g. older verses younger, taller verses shorter, group of friends verses loner etc). Bullying is also something that occurs frequently over a long period of time, rather than a once off encounter. It is not about disagreeing with someone or simply not liking them; rather, it’s purposefully degrading them.

Bullying usually takes one or more of five forms and can be either overt (committed in front of others and intended to humiliate) or covert (kept hidden and/or done secretly, often causing the victim to feel that no one will believe them even if they do speak up).

1) Verbal Bullying

Verbal bullying is often considered the most common form in schoolyards. It includes name-calling, insulting the person or someone/something they care about, and/or making discriminatory remarks. Similar to this is writing insults on paper, as a text message and/or as wall-graffiti.

2) Physical Bullying

Physical bullying occurs when one person is physically hurt by another. This may mean hitting, poking, pushing, scratching, kicking and/or grabbing someone with a desire to cause physical damage. Traditionally, this area of bullying is considered to be male dominated, but it is certainly not exclusive to them with girls resorting to it more and more.

3) Social Bullying

Social bullying is often thought to be one of the most hurtful forms. It involves lying about someone, spreading rumours, giving them the ‘silent treatment’, excluding someone from a group or activity, mimicking and mocking them and/or publically humiliating them. It is usually done in a group but still occurs on a one-on-one basis, particularly amongst girls.

4) Psychological/Emotional Bullying

Often the hardest to prove, psychological and emotional bullying is sending degrading messages to someone indirectly, whether that be by using ‘mind games’, subtly criticising them, constantly ‘changing the rules’ so the victim can never be right, and anything else that causes the victim to feel emotional stress and confusion. Psychological bullying can also include threatening, manipulating, controlling, possessing and even stalking someone. Because it is hard to show that it’s actually happening, the victim will often put up with the treatment while questioning themselves and their ability to make sound judgments. This type of bullying can also keep the victim bound to the relationship through ‘guilt trips’ and/or ‘reverse psychology’.

5) Cyber Bullying

Cyber bullying has become a popular albeit cowardly form of bullying in recent years. It involves using phones, social networking sites (most notably Facebook), and emails to verbally, psychologically and/or emotionally bully someone. Cyber bullying also includes creating/finding humiliating pictures and videos and making them public on the Internet.

Are You A Bully?

Now that you understand more about what bullying is, it’s important to ask yourself if you are being bullied (either at school, at home or in another environment), and if you have ever bullied another in any way. Maybe you would even like to take this test to find out if you are a bully. If you are, what do you think motivates you to act that way?

Next week we’ll talk more about what causes one person to deliberately hurt another. While understanding why it occurs isn’t an excuse for the behaviour, it can help bullies to change and victims to stop defining themselves by how people treat them, and it is through that that bullying begins to loose its power.