Articles, Blog

Adult bullying: The epidemic no one talks about | Kevin Ward | TEDxSantaBarbara

December 22, 2019


Translator: Leonardo Silva
Reviewer: David DeRuwe It’s my first day of third grade, and I’m so excited because
we’d just moved to a new town, so this is an adventure: a new school, new friends and … my brand-new pair of glasses. (Laughter) I’m on the playground,
and a kid walks up to me. He’s about my size,
with this thick, bushy, blonde hair, and he says, “Hey, want to fight?” (Laughter) “No!” (Laughter) “Well, I do!” (Laughter) Next thing I know, I am in a headlock
and the punches are coming and coming, and I can feel my face
just being squeezed, and it feels like the hair
is being ripped out of my scalp! Now, I’m eight years old,
and getting beat up is new for me. Bam! Another hit, and another. Finally, I managed to twist loose. “My glasses!” They’re broken. And he broke them. And all I can think to myself is … run, get away as fast as I can, and that’s what I did. I get home, my mom sits me in her lap, tears pour down my face, and she says, “Bub, you did the right thing to not fight back. You just turn the other cheek, and kids like that will leave you alone.” Okay, Mom’s always right, right? But in fourth grade, it was Colin,
with his red hair and freckles, and he didn’t leave me alone. The next year, it was Greg,
with his tough-guy strut. In junior high, it was Santos,
our all-star running back, and then Robert, and then Dean … In high school, it was this little punk, Raul, who would punch me every day
in the locker room, and I just took it. My friend Johnny said, “Stand up to him!” And Johnny was right, but I listened to Mom. And it didn’t end with classmates. My senior year, my first adult bully showed up. We’d just moved to another new town, and so I’m the new kid again. And our basketball team
was ranked number one in state, and some were saying
that I was the best player on the team. That’s me, number 14. But to Coach Reeves, I was an intruder on his team. And so, when I missed one layup in a first game, he benched me permanently. He told me a few days later it was up to me if I wanted to sit
on the bench for the rest of the season, or I can quit. I quit. I graduated from college,
got my first job and got bullied. I was bullied in my marriage. Seventeen years of marriage,
and not a single fight with my wife. Why? Because I just turned the other cheek. Until one day, all the problems exploded, and just like third grade, I ran away. Only now … with three little girls of my own, what’s broken … is a lot more than a pair of glasses. We think of bullying as a childhood issue. Yes, and it is. And yet, the brutal reality is that
one of the greatest oppressors of our time is adult bullying. Now, what is adult bullying? Well, it’s this. That is not a textbook
definition of bullying, and yet, I think the cartoon version
sometimes is clearer. A little sand in the face, and … a little threat, just to remind you that you’re nobody. And that plays out countless times
every day all over the world, in the workplace, when the boss says, “You want to keep your job?
You keep your mouth shut!” Or when a co-worker rudely walks in
late to your presentation just to throw you off your game. In a recent survey
of 2,000 adults across the US, 31% said that they
had been bullied as adults. They surveyed 9,000 federal employees, and 57% said that they had been bullied
in the last two years. And yes, the government
has anti-bullying policy. And obviously, it’s not confined
just to the workplace. Adult bullying is just as prevalent
at home, in marriages, in our communities, on the street if you’ve ever driven
in rush-hour traffic, in politics … It’s everywhere. And it isn’t the external repercussions that are as significant as the internal
impact on the individual, the target, the victim. The emotional and psychological damage to self-worth, to confidence
and to dignitiy is enormous. I know because I was bullied
for most of my life. Not anymore. And through that journey, I learned three hard-hitting truths
about the oppression of adult bullying. The first truth is
just how personal it is. Now, adult bullying is not a big deal, if you’ve never been bullied. It’s kind of like the difference
between major and minor surgery: if I have it, it’s major; you have it, it’s minor. Right? And that’s the way
many people feel about bullying. They’ve never been bullied,
they can’t relate, so it must not be that big of a deal. And anti-bullying policy
is typically created by those in positions of power
who’ve never been bullied. And yes, even when they tell you, “Oh … Don’t let it bother you,” that is personal. Psychotherapist Jenise Harmon
suggests that bullying is not about you. “You’re not the one with the problems, so you shouldn’t ever
take bullying personally.” Excuse me, counselor,
with all due respect, when you’re the one
getting punched every day, it’s personal. When a co-worker accuses you
of saying something you didn’t say, his problem just became your problem. When a bullying husband
tells his wife every day how worthless she is, it’s personal. The second hard-hitting truth
about adult bullying is how helpless you feel. The real issue isn’t the bullies; it’s the fear, it’s the feeling
of helplessness to do anything about it. It’s this dark cloud
of constant shame and anxiety that suffocates self-worth, kills dreams, and can lead to depression and even suicide. For me, it was this feeling
that I couldn’t stand up for myself. I would always do pretty well
at everything until conflict showed up, and then, I would back down, and I would run away. I coach salespeople, and one of the things
that I have discovered is that fear and personal insecurities
probably pushes more of us around than any other type of bullying. And for me, it was that feeling
that I just couldn’t stand up for myself. I spent so much of my life
avoiding conflict, hiding in fear of bullies, that my greatest bully
had become the fear itself. And either way, the impact
is just as devastating. The third truth of adult bullying is how fixable it is. Now, all the talk about anti-bullying
policy and safe spaces hasn’t worked, and it won’t work. Why? Because bullying pays off for the bully, and because bullies aren’t stupid,
they’re not going to play by the rules. They don’t target you
when you’re in the safe space. A lot of times, the bullies are the ones in power. So, there is no safe space. The solution is not external; the solution is internal, here. Bullying will never be stopped
at the corporate or policy level. Bullying can only be stopped
at the individual level. All the research confirms
what nobody wants to admit: bullying can only be stopped here. Just like the problem is personal, so is the solution. And that’s what Skinny
finally figured out. After his day of humiliation at the beach,
he decided to do something about it. Now, he didn’t do it alone. He found somebody to help him. (Laughter) In this case, Mr. Charles Atlas,
with his leopard speedo. (Laughter) And he armed himself. Now, what the cartoon doesn’t show us is all the hard work
required to get there. And make no mistake about it,
becoming bully-proof is hard work, and yet it starts
with a decision to take control. Now, how did I stop being bullied? I went skydiving. Now, my lifelong, greatest fear
was the fear of heights, and I had to prove to myself
that I could stand up to my fears. And that day became
my personal day of declaration that I will never let fear stop me again. I’d spent so much of my life avoiding
conflict, hiding in fear of bullies, that my greatest bully
had become the fear itself. Everyone who’s been bullied has to come
to that kick-the-chair moment when you decide, “I am not
going to take it anymore,” and you stop waiting
for someone else to come rescue you, and you take control. For me, I started reading, I started attending
workshops and seminars. I walked on fire at a Tony Robbins’ event. I simply started facing my fears
that I used to run away from, and step by step, my personal strength and confidence grew. If you’re bullied,
that is the only solution: is you take action. Start reading, attend seminars, join a self-defense class,
learn martial arts, master something that gives you the courage
and the confidence to take control. There is no other solution. You become your own safe space. On this, Charles Atlas got it right: you’ve got to get strong. And you can do this – no matter
what age you are, we can all do this. We take absolute control. Now, right after that, Charles Atlas blew it
because he made it about getting even. Now, notice, at least he got the girl. We all say Charles Atlas
was a marketer, not a humanitarian, so we’ll cut him some slack. But I want to be crystal clear that we are not talking
about becoming a bully, but rather, just bully-proof. See, a master of self-defense
has lethal power, but hopefully never has to use it, what Bruce Lee called
“the art of fighting without fighting.” Now, this is not the easy path, but it is the only path that will win. Personal strength and confidence
is the true safe space because that you can take with you everywhere. And by the way, so can an eight-year-old on his first day of third grade. Thank you. (Applause)

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  • Reply come to roast leave roasted December 21, 2019 at 11:51 pm

    Narcissistic bully tried to bully me. But little did they know I’m the biggest troll ever. So I casually let a stankass fart rip and blamed the bully and now the bully is getting bullied. Life lesson: eat beans before you pull up to enter combat with a bully

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