If you don’t know what it is, the clue is in the name. Passive bullying often goes unnoticed by the bully themselves but the person being bullied will feel the force at varying levels depending on their own level of resilience. Although even someone with good resilience can eventually be broken down if the passive bullying continues for an extended period of time.
Some examples of passive bullying include:-
Any obvious exclusionary behaviour like whispering or talking quietly in proximity of others not included, which is rude at its core anyway.
Using belittling language to someone on a regular basis when no relationship exists where this a two way friendly interaction.
Other exclusionary behaviour like not inviting someone to join you in short, medium or long social activities from a short drink and a chat to a full group activity. Again on a regular basis.
Not offering genuine greetings and brief catch ups. Genuine is the key word here as distracted small talk can easily be detected.
We often see young children take part in passive bullying as they go through their development in managing their relationships with others. However the same behaviour can continue into adulthood if not recognised and addressed.
The most likely person to be passively bullied is anyone who is different either physically, mentally or behaviourally. It can be our own fears that prevent us from interacting with people like this. This primarily stems from a number of different fears-
Fear of not knowing what to say.
Fear of laughing in awkwardness while talking to that person and being judged for it by others on your social circle.
Fear of being judged by other people in a wider social context.
It’s much easier to talk about and make jokes about that person’s differences but it’s certainly not the preferred behaviour of someone who is old enough to know better. It’s our own insecurities and need to feel included that can cause us to take that easy path of joining others in passively excluding someone else. However it can build our self esteem to reject this playground mentality and take the not so easy path of not excluding anyone from our lives, however different or difficult they may seem.
So next time you find yourself in a situation that may result in you exhibiting some passive bullying behaviour, stop, listen and make eye contact. A short but regular genuine interaction of between 30 seconds to 2 minutes can be a good way to prevent yourself from becoming a passive bully. The key thing to focus on is being genuine as it can be easy to see when someone is not authentic and their words don’t match their actions.
This isn’t a quick fix and it may take time to develop new habits to avoid passive bullying behaviours, but if we all start with one person we feel that we might be passively bullying then we can learn to treat more and more people with this same respect and reduce the negative repercussions that result from bullying of any kind.