Breakthrough Patient Recruitment

: Choose Your Friends—and Your Words—Wisely. Say “No” to Bullying

Choose Your Friends—and Your Words—Wisely. Say “No” to Bullying

Project Director

Last month was National Bullying Prevention Month in the United States; this week is Anti-Bullying Week for our friends and colleagues in the UK. The fact that we have to have these awareness months and weeks means this problem is clearly out of control. In fact, the CDC says bullying is so widespread that is has become a public health problem.


Words Do Hurt


We've all heard the phrase "sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me." Well, I think we all know that's not true. Words do hurt, and I am guessing all of us have at least one thing we are insecure about. Speaking as someone who as a child was not part of the "in" crowd, I can attest to how much words can hurt. I was made fun of for all kinds of things. My big nerdy glasses, my crooked teeth, my acne, my uncool clothes. I managed to make it through those awkward years, but those moments left some scars on my psyche.  


"But Tiffany" you say, "people were just teasing you-they didn't mean anything by it." Ok, fine. But when does teasing cross the line into bullying? Webster's dictionary defines bully as "a blustering browbeating person; one habitually cruel to others who are weaker."


But what defines weaker? While physical strength is easy to measure, it is much harder to measure a person's emotional strength. I think a more appropriate definition comes from which defines bullying as:


  • An Imbalance of Power: Kids who bully use their power-such as physical strength, access to embarrassing information, or popularity-to control or harm others. Power imbalances can change over time and in different situations, even if they involve the same people.


  • Repetition: Bullying behaviors happen more than once.


Beyond the pure physical component of bullying, I think the key to identifying emotional bullying is repetition. So, you made fun of my glasses one day. I woke up with a huge pimple in the middle of my forehead, and you just couldn't help yourself. We all tease others from time to time. But if someone asks you to stop or tells you something you said was hurtful, then JUST STOP!  


"But Tiffany" you say, "it's just kids being kids. It doesn't mean anything." Tell that to the parents of Rebecca Ann Sedwick, a 7th grader who committed suicide earlier this year after enduring a year of bullying that included messages telling her to "just kill yourself." And did the girls who were accused of bullying Rebecca show remorse for their actions? You be the judge. One of them posted this callous post on her Facebook page after Rebecca took her own life.




When did this type of behavior become ok? How can a 14-year-old girl have such little regard for another human's life? And how can we fix it?


We will borrow some good advice from others for this:


1. The "Golden Rule": Do to others what you would have them do to you. How would you feel if someone was making fun of you incessantly? If you lived in fear of physical or emotional harassment? This one should be easy people!


2. Homeland Security's "If you see something say something." If you see someone getting bullied or partaking in bullying another, speak up. If you don't feel comfortable confronting the bully for fear of your own safety, then notify the authorities.


3. The Baltimore Raven's fan code of conduct "Don't be a jerk." Plain and simple. Just don't. Like momma always said "If you don't have something nice to say then don't say anything at all." If you don't like something about someone, then keep it to yourself. No one is saying you have to be friends with everyone, but at least be friendly.


You can make a difference by joining Facebook's anti-bullying pledge, and my personal challenge to you is to say something nice to at least one person per day. Ideally that person will pay it forward. Words can be used to harm but they can also be used to help. You never know when something you say to someone will come "just when they need it." 



0 :


The Healthy(ist) blog is a platform to share, learn about, and debate topics related to public and social health, scientific research, health communications, and behavior change.
We invite and encourage anyone interested in current public health and health communication trends and issues to join MMG's contributing bloggers in adding their voice to the ongoing discussion about how we can advance health, together.


MMG Headquarters
700 King Farm Boulevard
Suite 500
Rockville, MD 20850
+1-301-921-4405 (fax)
MMG Europe
Thremhall Park
Start Hill
Bishops Stortford
Hertfordshire CM22 7WE
+44(0) 1279 874463