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Sunday, August 5, 2012

The Intervention

Hey All --

This week, time to re-visit the issue of enabling, and how to counteract it. 

In the past I've spoken about how bullying persists in schools, offices, and families -- NOT JUST because there are victims, and NOT JUST because someone "asks for it."  The one thing a bully needs to survive is an enabler.  Someone who knows that the conduct is wrong, someone who has the power to curtail it, someone who could respond to the behavior with consequences, but doesn't.   Maybe because they're scared, maybe because they're not sure what to do, maybe because they just "shrug it off" or "tune it out" or "turn the other cheek."  Regardless of why it's happening, it's FEEDING the bullying, not "ignoring" it.

Some time ago, I blogged about a memory from college.  I was a member of a certain organization, which shall go nameless, that allowed a bully to control and manipulate its internal structure.  This individual was given carte blanche to slander, demean, belittle, defame, and insult all those who were not followers or cronies with immunity and impunity.  Until one day the good people of this organization said "That's Enough!"  They were ready to expel this individual with prejudice.

A meeting was held regarding this individual's behavior and the organization's feelings about it.  For the first time in this young person's life, which was not much more than 21 years, unflinching honest feedback was given to the abusive and self-centered behavior that had been left unchecked for too long.  This person exhibited eye rolling and contempt towards this criticism, questioned how this behavior should be relevant "after all I've done," and argued that the fact that "my personality is not pleasant" should continue being disregarded.  When confronted with one particularly egregious and inappropriate comment this person made, this person actually giggled at the sound of their own words, and protested that "I wasn't talking to you when I said that."

However, unlike the prior encounters that this person was accustomed to winning without a fight, every protest was met with even more evidence of the unacceptable behavior.  Pooh-poohing it didn't work this time.  Little by little, this person realized that numbers and volume were leading to defeat, and that none of the enablers and cronies were able to continue their defense.  Finally, without admitting guilt or responsibility (it would've taken waterboarding for that to happen), this person begrudgingly conceded that the behavior was "not fair" to the non-cronies, and that this person would "try" to change the behavior.

It was not an overnight success, and this person did not spend the rest of college wearing a halo and wings.  However, this intervention did result in a marked improvement in the behavior.  With the realization that the behavior was no longer funny, cute, or tolerable, it occurred less frequently.

This tool should be just as effective for bullying as it is to stop a pattern of drug and alcohol abuse.  Get yourself a good-sized group of trust friends and families, sit our misguided friend in a chair, lock the door, and don't let up until he or she gets the message that it's not OK.  Being outnumbered, outgunned, disproven, and exposed can have an obvious effect even on the most brazen, hardened, loudmouthed, spoiled, and unabashed bully or miscreant!  In ideal circumstances, children are taught to shed this behavior early on without the need for an intervention, but sometimes it just "skips."

So, without being a surrogate parent or teacher, if there's someone in your life who just doesn't get it, see that they do!

Comments Welcome!