First, I don’t like to use the term “bully,” as it is a label and prevents us from seeing the one to whom the label is applied as a person. And this is important because bullying is human; it is an adaptive trait, a form of social interaction that almost all people use at varying times and to different degrees. I believe that there are no bullies, per se; rather, there are people who tend to use bullying behavior more often than others.
There are two types of bullying, direct (dominance) and relational aggression. Direct aggression is fairly straightforward; it is behavior such as intimidation, taunts, and insults generally intended to make the target afraid, upset, to feel that a personal characteristic is a flaw, to allow the aggressor to get what he or she wants, and is sometimes done in retaliation for an actual or perceived offense.
Relational aggression is, unfortunately, harder to identify when it is occurring, but easy to recognize after the fact. Relational aggression is bullying that harms the friendships of the target of the bullying. It is often covert, so the target often isn’t aware of it until after it has taken place. A common relational aggression method is to start a rumor or tell a lie about a person. If a person suddenly finds that friends are avoiding him or her or acting distant, that person may be the target of relational aggression.
(Note: If you're being bullied, find someone you can trust to help you and tell them as soon as you can!)
For more daily life advice like this, check out the blogs, articles, and Ask the Expert posts in our Student Life section.