It’s national anti-bullying week this week and I’ve been reflecting on how badly bullying can affect children if it is not stopped, not just when they’re children but well into adulthood. Despite having a bad squint as a child, I was fortunate enough to avoid being bullied. I avoided team sports like the plague and they happily avoided me, but I was not bullied.
However, when my brother went to secondary school his personality completely changed. He became both withdrawn and aggressive. Every day when he got back from school he got angry with us- his siblings – and at mum and dad. It emerged that he was being bullied. After a couple of years, he was taken out of mainstream school because the bullying continued.
Gradually, he regained some confidence in himself and became much calmer.
But bullying can also be endemic among adults as well. In organisations, this often revolves around conflicts between individuals that have been allowed to continue for too long without being addressed. Or where there has been a process of major change or restructuring and people have not been listened to. Sometimes, bullying is a means of the ‘bully’ protecting themselves from their own insecurities.
Whatever the cause, I truly believe that if ‘conflict’ wasn’t seen as such a dirty word, but instead as just another part of life that we have to deal with, then much heartache -and poor health – could be prevented. If we could learn the skills and develop the determination to both acknowledge our conflicts and work through them, then everyone would be better off. And everyone <em>can</em> learn the skills, they’re given the right training. It’s a matter of willingness to invest the time and resources. And to engage in that process of personal development ourselves.
Sometimes, we need others to help. And this is where mediation can support people to talk about those sticky situations by providing the safe space and structure that is needed. Where everyone is willing to take part, mediation can be a very healing thing.
If only more people were willing to give it a go.