Re: Some Thoughts on The Blog
posted at 11/5/2011 11:08 AM EDT
In the end, I find that most analyses of "bullying" that ignore or marginalize the power/social consequence component simply lump all forms of confrontation and forceful disagreement into the "bullying" section of the venn diagram.
Also, in my home and within my circle of friends, giving people the business is a sign of love and affection. Laughing at our own faults and finding humor in shared recognition of absurdity binds us together. On many occasions, someone who is "new" to this environment misinterprets the laughter as some kind of personal attack, when all someone was trying to do is say "we're including you, you're one of us." Depending on the level of the reaction, the interaction can generally be turned around and the person can come to an understanding of the dynamic. However, some people are apparently wired very firmly against this type of interaction and refuse to believe that the motivation behind the initial words was friendly. That person generally holds strong to the idea that the interaction was "bullying" and that belief will poison any future attempts to be friendly.
One example. In our town, a bunch of us are loosely connected because our girls play soccer. Probably 40-50 parents of kids who compete at the high school level find ourselves in social situations, and many of us would never choose to hang out with each other in any other circumstance. But there's a friendly bond with the understanding that everyone wants everyone else's daughter to succeed (really). Through that common understanding, we can all laugh when someone commits an egregious mistake, and everyone knows that they have the support of the group. One day a few years ago, I was on the sideline with the mom of a younger girl who was playing at the time with my daughter on the middle school team. There were a bunch of us standing together, doing the usual thing while watching the game ("oh god, could my daughter have made a worse decision there", etc.). A few of the kids had done some silly things, all of which made the group laugh. Then this woman's daughter didn't run back during a transition, and when one of our defenders unexpectedly stole the ball and booted it back toward the box, the girl was a mile offside. A few of us chuckled and I said something like "you could have landed an airplane between her and the last defender." Despite having been a part of all the earlier interactions, the woman immediately went into defensive mode and said "well I geuss she's just not a level one player" and walked away. And maintains a grudge about it to this day (trust me).
Not only was this not an attempt to bully, humiliate, or exclude this woman or her daughter, it was an attempt to include her with everyone else. It wasn't an attempt to be mean or elitist, but she's probably going to see it that way forever.
So was our original behavior "bullying"? I'm 100% on the "no" side, mainly because this whole dynamic was fine with her until her daughter was the topic of discussion. Frankly, I see her behavior as indicative that she legitimately DOES NOT CARE about the other kids, and as long as her daughter is successful the rest of them can go rot.