Recognising the semantics involved in Bullying behaviour

Dealing with the semantics of Bullying behaviour, intimidation and aggression that amounts to emotional and mental abuse in personal relationship or organisation can be confusing.

Confusion is a significant part of the abusive behaviour causing mental and emotional dilemma, recognition being the first stage to enable effective challenge.

Looking inwardly is often the first reaction. What can I do differently to avoid this reaction towards me?

Looking inwardly is all we can do as mature adults, when personal relationships challenge and face us. By responding differently to the behaviour that is being directed towards us we can successfully resolve many issues. When we are successful, we can choose to use different and contrasting behaviours than the other person is using towards us. We cannot successfully manage aggressive behaviour by using aggression as a defence. When we approach aggression with the opposite response we are then in a strong powerfully resistant position.

To remain focussed and discerning enables us to know that bullying aggressive behaviour is apparent when either observing aggressive behaviour towards others, or identifying it as a victim of that behaviour.

For many victims in receipt of this behaviour they remain confused and in disbelief, that this is actually happening to them, until there are significant and notable changes either to themselves and other relationships around them.

Self-search can be self-defeating, resulting in holding the victim back from actual realisation and awareness, as it can be side-lined into denial, and in an attempt to analyse and define the rationale and reasoning for the behaviour towards them, self-search can morph into distraction and procrastination. There are always individual complexities involved in the psychological and motivation of power and control. Analysis of the reasoning behind bullying or controlling behaviours can be broad and varied.

The method and system used to perpetuate a power and controlling methodology, is similar in all cases not necessarily in any systematic order. We can often recognise 3 specific conditions that are used in bullying behaviour, isolation, separation and repetition.



This condition provides the secrecy that is formed from a basis of fear that is often apparent and permeates the victim bringing a fear of other people’s disbelief often caused by the internal confusion that they themselves are feeling. Confusion, which is informed by the uncertainty of the reasons behind the actions that are being experienced. If they were to disclose the situation that they face, how could they be believed, when they themselves are confused? When aggressive behaviour occurs it is often in a separate situation away from others. Isolation making the victim feel disconnected, as humans we are made to feel and be connected with others. This confusion in turn can lead the victim to separating themselves from certain situations and people that they value their connection with. Then, when individual awareness is raised, as the recognition of bullying behaviour the victim can then associate this recognition with shame or denial, which then serves to increase their sense of isolation.



By separation from anything that is related too, or has a connection with positive relationships with others that are of value and encouragement, is a common method that perpetrators seek to encourage and create, a distance between positive influencers increasing the sense of secrecy and shame.

I recently read a poster in a female toilet, the poster read words scar. The photograph was of a woman with UGLY written on her back. A very powerful image of the type of behaviour that can violate another human with the use of words. The poster successfully portrayed that what we say has a direct effect on how we make people feel. There is no gender preference that confines this behaviour, no age, social class, position, sector or profession that is immune to bullying behaviour.



The on-going repetition of the aggressive bullying behaviour is a constant reinforcement of the fear and the control by the perpetrator towards the victim. Resulting in disempowering of the individual by the behaviour executed and the circumstances used. Repetition deteriorates self-confidence and undermines the individual self-esteem over a period of time.


Bringing recognition to confusion

By working through the situations when and how the conditions and the behaviours are carried out it is possible to recognise that the behaviours and the conditions are real and being used intentionally. In addition, by listing the type and the form that the behaviour takes, also the effect, how it makes the group or the individual feel as a result of the behaviour, conditions and the circumstances, it is possible to identify some of the solutions. Writing this down can be helpful and offers insight, also helping to inform the realisation. Try identifying the circumstances and the conditions under each of the headings, isolation, separation and repetition. It is often easier to talk through, thoughts and feelings with someone you can trust and use them as a sounding board. Rest assured that the realisation and awareness of inappropriate behaviour is always positive it is through recognition that we bring effective solution.


Everyone is of value and has the right to be treated as such, recognise that poor behaviour is wrong when it is purposefully targeted towards disempowering another human being.


A guide to challenging the circumstances

The following is intended as a guide to challenging the organisational and individual response towards aggressive or bullying behaviour. It is advisable to discuss both personal and organisational circumstances before taking action.

General considerations for Leadership and individual decisions and actions

Identify the circumstances around the practices and the behaviours, when, where and how they manifest themselves. Do they have, or do they indicate isolation, separation and repetition?

Organisational situations of aggression and bullying

Decide as a collective using policy, procedure to guide your plan – what are the individual circumstances that are providing opportunity to carry out and practice the behaviour. Is there a way to change organisational situations or routines to prevent or deter behaviour, without making it obvious or creating special circumstances for one or more individuals? Take a statement from the victim. Ask how they want to be supported, discuss the options and opportunity, seek to provide protection, support and advice.

Cyber bullying: is particularly personal and it can invade the social/work or personal networks of both groups and individuals. Cyber bullying in the workplace can affect performance and relationships, the employer has a duty of care towards the employee concerned and the employee can expect protection as part of that duty and their psychological contract with the employer. Even when the behaviour is conducted outside of the workplace and it involves employees, there is a duty of care when that behaviour affects attitudes and employment relationships or performance. There will be policy and procedural guidance for both the employer/employee to comply with. Both form the basis of contractual terms and conditions and enable the leaders to take action.

Individual situations of aggression and bullying

As an individual dealing with personal related circumstances outside of employment, there are options and advice available, and groups that are specialised in dealing with the emotional, psychological and physical effects caused by aggressive and bullying behaviours. There are many organisations that can signpost according to individual needs, as well as web related information and guidance. Talking through your options and exploring alternatives is advisable before deciding on the direction you want to take.

It is advisable to keep a record or a timeline of the dates and the times noting the circumstances and the situation surrounding the inappropriate behaviour.

Consider coaching and mediation as a means to resolution, there is significant evidence that supports mediation as a suitable effective intervention and solution.

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Author: Hazel Rowell-Peverley