Dealing with bullying

Canada’s public health hero, Andre Picard, was recently bullied by some physicians on Twitter. He responded the way many of us would, by arguing back. It didn’t help. In fact, disagreeing with the critics made the situation worse.

Perhaps if Andre – and the rest of us – saw bullies as nothing but 2-year-olds who haven’t mastered important developmental milestones, we’d save ourselves the distress and effort of trying to convince bullies to see us for who we are.

The similarities between 2-year-olds and bullies are striking. They both:

  • Don’t really understand how people feel
  • Don’t get how their actions and words affect others
  • Selfishly seek what’s best for them
  • Prize their own needs and interests ahead of other people
  • Struggle to keep control their emotions
  • Have difficulty seeing the world from someone else’s perspective

The difference is, adults should know better.

We don’t get offended when a 2-year-old yells at us or throws a fit when they don’t get their way. Eventually they’ll learn how to act.

But if an adult hasn’t mastered a developmental milestone they should have as a toddler, it’s unlikely arguing with them will do any good.

Better, I think, to treat bullies like toddlers who don’t know any better. Wait for them to manage their emotions before trying to engage in a productive discussion. Lead by example, maintain your integrity and walk away.

Good things happen when we ignore the people who stop us from doing our best work.