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Self Advocacy- A Key Component To Bullying Prevention

Self Advocacy- A Key Component To Bullying PreventionMargie was the new counselor in a relatively large campus-counseling unit.  She was pleased to join the staff right after graduate school.

Her interviews went well and the supervisor was impressed with her credentials.  She thought her career was off to a great start.

However, in the first meeting, after the tea and cookies were dispensed in the ceremonial welcome, one of the senior counselors, Matt, chimed in across the table to make a remark.

“Hmm Margie, looks like you don’t miss a meal… guess you will fit in here!”

The staff paused as Margie was a bit heavy set.  Matt’ comment was rude and unwelcomed.

“Ah c’mon… you know how we eat around here!”

But as the meetings transpired, Matt’s comments got more aggressive.  He remarked on Margie’s degree, her clothes and called her bed head during an accreditation visit.  Margie said nothing.  Also the staff said nothing.  People just remained shocked as Matt continued his public shaming of Margie.

Margie went into counseling because she wanted to help people get through aggressive behaviors.  She was great at helping others but somehow paralyzed when it came to helping herself.

What happened?

Given my experiences on consulting on workplace bullying and researching the topic, I in no way – no way- want to blame the target. However, there is something to be said about self-advocacy. Whether you are in the check out line at the grocery, dealing with your accountant, or negotiating flights with the airlines, you have a responsibility to self-advocate. If you don’t stand up for yourself- how do you expect other to?

All too often, I visit schools were people complain about being bullied, but when I ask, “What do you say in the first instance…” the answer often is “I said nothing.”

Saying nothing is a sure sign to a bully that you will endure the bad behavior. Bullies in many cases, pick who they perceive to be the weaker person… much like a lion chooses the slowest antelope. Bullies often choose their “mark.”

Again, this is not the target’s fault, but just as civil rights legislation, sexual harassment legislation, and other workplace provisions were crafted in response to people speaking up about unfair treatment, on the individual, we still must continue such self-advocacy.

Don’t take it on the chin and just remain quiet, thinking the bully with go away.  A kind but firm remark to dissuade the bully in the onset is often enough to set your reasonable boundaries. Standing mute in the face of a bully often gives the bully a green light to keep running over your feelings. Kind and firm self-advocacy is a major component of bullying prevention.

Read more posts by Leah Hollis, Ed.D. here. Leah is a contributing blogger for JenningsWire.

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