What is bullying?
Simply put, bullying is a pattern of unwelcome or aggressive behavior, often with the goal of making others uncomfortable, scared or hurt. It’s almost always used as a way of having control or power over their target, and it is often based on another person’s appearance, culture, race, religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation or gender identity.
Bullying vs. Conflict
We need to clearly identify the difference between conflict and bullying, in order to appropriately respond to bullying incidents. While the two seem similar in some instances, there is actually a distinct difference.
Two female members of the school basketball team are arguing with each other over the loss of a recent game. One of the girls is blaming the other for letting the opposing team knock the ball out of her hands before she could throw it. The other girl is saying it’s her teammate's fault because she didn’t pass the ball to her during the last few seconds of the game. They continue to fight until their coach gets involved and tells the girls to stop arguing.
This is an example of conflict. Both girls have equal power and are disagreeing over the outcome of a game. Neither is threatened or harmed, and neither is showing signs of humiliation or distress.
If one of the girls continued to blame the other and started calling her names, taunting her outside of the gymnasium or even getting others to gang up on her for the purpose of hurting her feelings or alienating her from her team and peers, that would be considered bullying.