Being friends/acquaintances with a bully is a bad look. The friends we choose in life are never perfect. There will be traits you see in friends which can damage your relationship with them as well as your own reputation in the eyes of others. Being friends with a bully is a bad look because it will serve to group you into a category you might not care to be in. It can create tension between yourself and others, especially if the victims of your friend’s bullying have to interact with you in day-to-day activities. Word can spread about your affiliation with bullies, making it harder to maintain a clean reputation.
If you happen to be friends with a bully at work or school you might want to explore ways of eliminating their tendency to bully others. This situation is a difficult to navigate as your friendship can suffer in the attempt to save your reputation. Of course, the success of putting a stop to your friend’s behavior entirely depends on their willingness to listen to you and learn. Your friendship with them should be used as a cushion for the harsh truths that you’re about to present. This article hopes to provide some insight into how you should handle friends who bully others and walk away with your friendship stronger than ever.
Do Not Call Them Out in Front of Others
It seems like the best shot at influencing any change in behavior from bullies is to show them that you care for how people perceive them. People who bully others tend to have a prideful desire to up-keep their social status. Calling out their behavior bluntly can serve to derail your intentions in changing their undesirable traits. They will be placed on the defensive if you do, and will likely double-down on any stance that they’ve been taking prior to your overt tactics. Prior to any intervention you aim to undergo with your friend, you must be certain that a trusting relationship between the two of you exists. You should be confident in your ability to speak candidly with this individual while they listen. If there is a bully among your group of friends, make sure to take them aside. Set up a one-on-one with this friend in question – perhaps to get a cup of coffee or to attend a training session at a gym.
Separating out your friend in question will serve to show them that your actions in attempting to put a stop to their behavior are coming from an honest place. You will not be seen as trying to “win” against them in a social setting by calling out their antics. Getting them alone prior to expressing your concerns about their behavior serves to muffle any possible responses that may arise as well. It is a gesture that suggests you caring for their social well-being, and should be presented as an effort to improve their status in the world. Stray from ganging up on them with others, trying to embarrass them by outing their behavior, or approaching this situation as a victim rather than someone who’s trying to help. A sympathetic approach is your best hope in succeeding to change the tendencies of a friend who bullies others.
Help Them Rather Than Deflate Them
Once you’ve set yourself up to express your concerns about their behavior, it comes time to deliver your thoughts.
- You should present the problem at hand as it relates to your friend in question. Always try to present the problem from their own self-serving perspective. Explain how their behavior might be hurting them in social settings. For example, bullying others hurts your friend by discouraging others to approach them, encouraging others to gossip and conspire, as well as degrading any good work that your friend does. The aim here is to transfer the understanding that bullying is hurtful to the bully. It is a self-serving downward spiral. The frustration that your friend feels is the fuel to, as well as the product of, their bullying.
- Prepare concrete examples of when they’ve employed bully tactics. For example, say, “Remember when you flipped out on Jeff last week? People in the room felt extremely uncomfortable and couldn’t enjoy themselves afterwards. It creates a tension in the room that serves to push you away from others.” Always connect examples to how they may be personally affected by this behavior. For instance, connect them to their ability to work together with others which translates into missed opportunities at work.
- Once you’ve ensured an understanding surrounding how your friend’s behavior affects them personally, work with them on next steps. This part will be unique to the individual you’re dealing with but once again, all roads should lead to their self-serving desire for improvement. If they employ bully tactics to get what they want from the world around them, begin exploring more successful methods in doing so. The main goal of your conversation with your friend is to plant the seed that stops their desire to behave the way they do. New methods to replace the old ways of bullying will develop with time.
In your journey to stop your friend from bullying others you must remain calm and uncritical. Be sure to make it obvious that you’re trying to help them without having any agenda of your own. The examples you provide should be enough to limit their emotional responses to your attempts – especially if you have social-proof from friends of the same group who share the same opinion.
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