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Lizanne Hennessey

Singer Songwriter & Vocal Coach, Lizanne Hennessey - Voice Coach

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Bullied... or ignored. Which is worse?

Shane's powerful presentation on standing up for yourself against bullying, and acknowledging your true beauty, got me thinking.

Bullying is a destructive act. It forces individuals into a category through labeling and name-calling that can sometimes cost that individual an entire lifetime to break out of.

But, what about ignoring an individual? Is denying someone's existence as destructive... or more so?

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    May 10 2013: bullied.
    • May 10 2013: Greg, I appreciate your one-word answer!
      I feel the need to elaborate by way of a story:

      I had this friend in grade school. She was creative, fun and what really impressed me, was that she had never missed a day of school. She often looked kind of messy, her hair was unwashed, and she tended to wear the same thing for days in a row. I never minded, and never questioned why. After a couple years, she transferred to another school.
      Recently, I reconnected with her. But what I thought would be joyful reminiscing was like pouring lemon juice over open wounds for her. She told me that she was severely neglected at home, (which in retrospect explained her appearance and her perfect attendance), but even worse, was that she was ignored at school.
      She was aware that a sort of agreement had been made by our class, that everyone was to ignore her, pretend she didn't exist. Because I was totally oblivious of that kind of thing, I (thankfully) never 'got the message'.
      She told me, which broke my heart and healed it simultaneously, that if it wasn't for our friendship, she probably would've taken her own life. She has been fighting against 'being invisible' her whole life.
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        May 10 2013: Being ignored is a form of bullying, however, it's a more acceptable form. Your friend was blessed to have you.
        • May 10 2013: I tend to agree, Kia.
          I think by denying her existence, my cruel classmates were in fact putting her into the category of 'not worth bullying'. The effects were just as devastating for her, but sadly, she never got the chance to stand up for herself...
          Thank you!
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          May 12 2013: Kia, are being left on one's own and ignored one and same?
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        • May 11 2013: I am flattered, Kate, and she actually said something along those lines to me too - but I can't agree with that. The fact that I was so 'out of it' when it came to stuff like gossip and cliques as a kid, can't in any degree make me responsible for saving her in any way. She told me how much I meant to her, but she meant as much to me.
          Transferring schools is what saved her, fortunately her parents came to realize our school was not a healthy place for her to be.
          My parents were literally told by my 6th grade teacher, that the entire year was a waste of time for me academically. I can honestly only remember the positive aspects of that year - like hearing "The Lord of the Rings" for the first time.

          She is a strong, vibrant, beautiful woman now. She recently married the love of her life, and is surrounded by love and support. She has spent an enormous portion of her life struggling against this feeling of anonymity, though. Time wasted, because to me, she was anything but non-existent.
      • May 11 2013: Lizanne, I struggle with this very issue with students. Most students, who are dealing with these issues, don't open up about it so we, the teachers, never know. Now some might say, "It is you job to know". True, but not when the only answer we ever get to the question is "everything is fine".

        If no information is provided regarding what is going on, and no one is willing to talk about it, then others will not find out what is going on. Kids are masters of hiding what they don't want others to know. Teachers are not trained in every aspect of counseling to resolve these issues. We try, believe me, the good ones try. But I have had more than one example of "you should have known that my child was...".

        Neither issue is easy. Bullying is easier to deal with as, if it is reported, can be resolved more quickly. Ignoring a person is very hard to notice and quite frankly, you can't make someone like someone else and talk to them.

        Both are tough...
        • May 11 2013: Everett, I can relate to what you're saying.
          A good friend of mine is a principal of an elementary school here, and this is an issue he is dealing with on a daily basis. There are all sorts of programs being developed here at the moment, but success levels are still low - like you say, the kids need to open up, but when there is so much fear, it can't be easy to come out and tell someone!

          It's a stigma. I think, kids might feel they are in some way responsible for being bullied. There is shame attached. "Maybe I deserved this".
          On the other hand, parents play an enormous role. My friend, the principal, said the biggest hurdles is communicating with the parents of a bully, who will by no means want to accept this!

          Bullies need help, as much as the bullied.
      • May 11 2013: LIzanne, I have actually had more of an issue with the parents of the child who was being "bullied". Sadly those children who are being ignored, are generally having more issues at home than they are at school and the parents just ignore them and don't report anything.

        What I have experienced is a conversation that usually starts along the lines of "what do you mean you didn't know my child was being bullied? Isn't that your job?" Which is incredibly frustrating when it is the parent telling you this. There are many programs about bullying, prevention of bullying, how to respond to bullies, how to and not to be a bully, etc. ad naseum that it is hard not to say that you know what a bully is and isn't. Parents and kids have been taught that they NEED TO REPORT it to someone in a position of authority and not assume. More and more, due to the mass media (thank you very much), most bullies are getting smarter and don't do it in public where people can see. And, it is not reported to anyone so, teachers don't know. It is incredibly frustrating to be on the receiving end of that conversation when you are doing your best to help the child.

        Ignoring is so much more difficult. Especially when the child draws away from the group. It is so much more subtle and not as noticeable. And quite frankly, even if the teachers work together to help students, a quiet kid doesn't necessarily get noticed in a class where there are other issues.
        • May 11 2013: Everett, I can understand your frustration!
          Kids are indeed clever. They know darn well when they're being watched! I get the impression, from your story and from stories my friend has related to me, parents like these prefer to shift the responsibility on the educators, rather than take any responsibility themselves. That could very well be the root of the problem.

          You said, kids have been taught they need to report bullying, which suddenly made me think of the role of their peers, who share this responsibility! Not only those who are a victim of bullying, but those who witness it, need to speak up.

          When I was in elementary school, I was a 'Natural Helper'. We were the 'go-between', and kids with problems could confide in us, if they didn't feel comfortable about going to an authoritative figure. We received training in how to deal with every kind of problem, including bullying, but also issues at home.

          I was happy to see, this program is still alive and well:
          http://www.ascd.org/publications/educational-leadership/oct97/vol55/num02/Peer-Helpers@-Encouraging-Kids-to-Confide.aspx
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        • May 11 2013: I would hope so, Kate.
          The good thing about the "Natural Helpers" program, was that we received training to deal with the really big issues, like suicide, and we had a direct link to grown-ups who were in a position to help. Kids who tell each other stuff is great, it's a start, but getting that information to an authority can still be an obstacle.

          How very sweet of you to say that. I guess, Kate, by accepting that I had anything to do with her survival, it would be suggesting I was aware she needed saving, which I was not.
          I valued then, and still value, her friendship, and am infinitely glad we found each other again, after so many years!
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      May 11 2013: I agree with you greg. But I shall need to expand a bit. Though I have become progressively mellower with age, for most part of my life I preferred to be ignored compared to being bullied. I certainly do not like to relive my past but I don't regret it either by admitting that I don't remember one single instance of being bullied without the situation going towards very strong protest - involving serious risk for the bully and when the bully was way stronger (physically) than me, my health :)
      I don't think kindness and compassion are so cheap as to waste on undeserving people.
      • May 11 2013: Wow, Pabitra: "I don't think kindness and compassion are so cheap as to waste on undeserving people. "
        Indeed, these are traits that should be respected, treasured and given to those who truly deserve it.
        If someone showers everyone they meet with an unlimited supply of kindness and compassion, then a friendship with that person can't mean much...
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          May 12 2013: Thanks Lizanne. I am a common man with limited and hard earned virtues. A bully is not one who gets anything from me, leave alone kindness and compassion.
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          May 12 2013: Dear Kate,
          I have met a huge number of bullies in my life, so many that I find it impractical to check their individual life experiences before dealing with them. Moreover, since it is my kindness and my compassion ( and I hope you will agree that kindness and compassion cost you - at least I believe these are not mere gestures but definite actions with consequences) I think I retain the right to dispense it to someone who is more likely to appreciate that it is valuable and not a weakness.
          I shall be honored and happy to be your friend, not even an ideal one and certainly no hero.:)
          Of course I prefer to be ignored rather than being bullied.
        • May 12 2013: Kate, kudos for pointing out the unfairness in that statement. You're right - everyone deserves compassion. Empathy is vital to our survival. It is impossible to judge who is deserving of that compassion, and who isn't, at face value.

          I do agree with Pabitra, though, that "kindness and compassion cost you". They are arguably our most valued possessions, which we have worked hard, in some cases perhaps an entire lifetime, to develop. They could be seen as gifts, to bestow on who we choose.
          In theory, I would say, if I am treated with compassion, I will bestow it.

          Some people don't get the chance, though, to show compassion. Or perhaps, have not learned how to. These individuals are as deserving, and maybe even more so!
          Thank you for helping me see this from another perspective, Kate.
        • May 12 2013: Kate, it seems we're commenting simultaneously!
          Did you see my reaction to Colleen's reply: "Colleen, I said "If someone showers everyone they..."? I think I may have answered your question - if not, please say so!
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          May 12 2013: Lizanne,
          You say..."I would say, if I am treated with compassion, I will bestow it."

          So, to feel compassion, for you is conditional? If you are treated that way, you treat others that way?
        • May 12 2013: Colleen, I think I wasn't clear in what I was trying to get across.
          Absolutely not, no - I love and respect without condition.

          I was trying to say that, in theory, I would treat someone as I am treated. But continued with, that some people don't get the chance, and that everyone is indeed truly deserving.

          I described in one of my comments, how my unconditional supply of kindness and compassion was becoming detrimental to me. As Kate put it (all the way at the top), I was - and am - a 'people-pleaser', and still struggle with prioritizing my own needs and defining my boundaries on a daily basis.

          My self-protection/survival mechanism was to bestow kindness and compassion on anyone that crossed my path, to the point of ignoring my own need for those same things. But, this same mechanism was destroying me. I am still finding that balance.

          This discussion has opened my eyes further than I thought it would! I am so grateful!
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          May 12 2013: Hi again Lizanne,
          I think/feel you were clear, and I think I understand what you are saying...it seems clear to me.... "I would treat someone as I am treated".

          That feels conditional to me.......I will give it to you, if you give it to me. I respect that concept as your personal choice.

          I responded to your comment regarding how and why you feel that your unconditional supply of kindness and compassion was becoming detrimental to you.

          Was your effort to bestow kindness and compassion on anyone that crossed your path for the purpose of self-protection/survival alone? Could it also have been based on a desire to be accepted and liked?

          I believe I will ALWAYS be seeking balance, because what I have discovered, is that as we shift things in our "self" (thoughts, feelings, ideas, beliefs, opinions, physical activity, etc. etc. etc.), it helps to be aware of how, why, when, and for what reason we readjust the balance in our "self":>)

          "The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes..."
          (Marcel Proust)
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        May 11 2013: Pabitra, Lizanne and Kate,

        Pabitra:
        "I don't think kindness and compassion are so cheap as to waste on undeserving people"?

        Lizanne:
        "If someone showers everyone they meet with an unlimited supply of kindness and compassion, then a friendship with that person can't mean much..."?

        I agree with you Kate, and do not agree with these ideas. I also have worked with SO many people who are wounded, and we NEVER know what battles a person is waging in him/herself. Are we to judge who is deserving and who is not, even though we may not know the whole story behind the person? That is not my choice.

        Lizanne, why do you say..."If someone showers everyone they meet with an unlimited supply of kindness and compassion, then a friendship with that person can't mean much... "?

        I believe that kindness and compassion are unlimited, so why not shower everyone with it? We can "BE" what we want to "SEE" in each and every moment, and modeling a behavior is the best teacher I know:>)
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          May 12 2013: I would have been happier if I could have you in agreement, Colleen. One thing I feel very sure about is that my kindness and compassion are not unlimited. So just like a poor man weighs his pennies, I need to be careful whom I shower it with.
        • May 12 2013: Colleen, I said "If someone showers everyone they meet with an unlimited supply of kindness and compassion, then a friendship with that person can't mean much...?" because someone once said it to me.

          A few years ago, I reconnected with an old classmate. I asked her, why we weren't better friends in school? That is when she told me, I was so nice to everyone, I was friends with everyone, so she assumed a friendship with me couldn't mean that much, and consequently never made the effort to become better friends with me.

          I am someone who makes sure everyone else in the room is comfortable, content, happy before I allow myself to even sit down. I over-adapt, I place the needs of others before my own. My unlimited supply of kindness and compassion is a reflection of this. Unfortunately, it was a destructive pattern that was having a detrimental effect on me. I was giving too much of myself away, was literally drying up.
          I am aware of this 'lifetrap', it has been the subject of many years of therapy, and has helped me become the person I am proud to be now, compared to the person I had struggled to be 5 years ago.

          I have been taken advantage of and manipulated, because of my endless supply of kindness and compassion... I was vulnerable to those who saw an opportunity to use me.

          Let me be absolutely clear about one thing - I possess love and respect for everyone. Even those who have wronged me, perhaps especially those. I do not possess the ability or capacity to hate.
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          May 12 2013: The cost is, in one part the pain and suffering that I make my own and live my life as if it is my pain and suffering for the person towards whom my kindness and compassion flow. In other part, the cost is in sharing my own resources to help alleviate the pain and suffering and to change life a bit towards better for the person towards whom my kindness and compassion flow. Depending on the situation this cost may even be financial.
          Except for these tangible actions I believe kindness and compassion do not become meaningful for me. I am a very ordinary person with limited resources so my ability to be kind and compassionate is not unlimited therefore.
          I have stressed my family for this nature of mine yet I can go out and help only so many. It is difficult to explain here how many suffer how much around me. I feel very sad for my limitedness and hope others will reach out in equal measure.
          Btw Kate, not everyone who has sustained damage is a bully. I think a bully is basically a coward and a weakling. Real strength is in protecting not in attacking.
          Boxers hug each other when they get too close, do you know that? :D
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          May 12 2013: Lizanne,
          This is a response to your comment which begins:

          "Colleen, I said "If someone showers everyone they meet with an unlimited supply of kindness and compassion, then a friendship with that person can't mean much...?" because someone once said it to me...."

          Your classmate/friend didn't connect with you because she made an assumption about you and your behavior....you were so nice to everyone, so she assumed a friendship with you couldn't mean that much. Do I have that right?

          Ok.....so.....you accepted and adopted that belief? Which was based on HER assumption?

          I understand the concept of depleting our energy....I've been there....done that by trying to help another person be comfortable.

          What I learned, is that to make an effort to help others be comfortable before taking care of myself is what depletes the energy. If we are honestly giving, without conditions and expectations of others, the energy, (compassion, empathy, respect and unconditional love) flows without limitations.

          When we "struggle" to "be" a certain kind of person, our effort may not be coming from a genuine intent to give without expectations/conditions.....which is why it feels like a "struggle".

          I agree that some people will "use" us when they discover we may have an unlimited supply of kindness and compassion. That is when "knowing" ourselves and our intent can be helpful.

          You shared your example of trying to be nice and help everyone around you be comfortable. People pick up on that, and will sometimes take advantage when possible. When we "know" ourselves, our intent and practices, we KNOW when someone is trying to do that, and we do not have to interact with that person.....it is a choice. Kindness and compassion can be extended from afar! We can say...I have compassion and kindness in my heart for a person, and I do not choose to try to make that person more comfortable than I am in myself. Make any sense?
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        May 12 2013: Dear Pabitra,
        It is ok if we do not agree. I still offer you respect, compassion, kindness unconditionally and unlimited whether or not we agree:>) I do not fully understand being careful with kindness and compassion, and I certainly respect your choice.

        I agree with Kate, that kindness and compassion flows from a limitless well within us. In my perception and experience, it has to be a conscious effort to limit that flow. I do not recognize a "cost" to me for allowing the kindness and compassion to flow through me. In fact, I believe it fills my heart and mind, so it is not only a gift to others....it is a gift to myself as well.

        I also agree with Kate, that often, the tougher/rougher the exterior, the more damage one may have inside. I learned this with the incarcerated guys. They often project a very tough, rough persona, and when I read their files, I discovered unbelievable experiences they had as children.

        Their challenging childhood does not justify bullying or hurting others, but it does provide information with which we can better understand some of the underlying dynamics of bullying.
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          May 12 2013: If challenging childhood and damages sustained are the reasons of becoming a bully, I would have been one Colleen. Had I been one, I think I could not have hidden it here too. I admire and respect you despite this and many differences. :)
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          May 12 2013: I did and my answer (already to you) remains unchanged. It is apparent that you and I have different ideas about kindness and compassion. The resourcefulness of being kind and compassionate is important to me and in that aspect I have not yet found an infinite fountainhead.
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          May 12 2013: Pabitra,
          You say...."If challenging childhood and damages sustained are the reasons of becoming a bully, I would have been one Colleen".

          There are MANY factors, which influence any individual, because we are all different, so a challenging childhood is not the only reason underlying the bullying behavior, as I'm sure you know.

          I have 7 siblings, and all 8 of us made different choices regarding how to deal with a childhood that was influenced by a violent, abusive father. Thankfully, we all stayed out of jail, and live lives that are productive. AND we all dealt with the violence and abuse in different ways. Most of my siblings didn't even talk about it for a very long time....until I began to lend them my ear:>)

          In fact, the brother who died in January began talking a LOT about his childhood and our father as he approached death. He had been carrying a lot of emotional pain for 74 years. He used his pain to motivate kindness and respect, rather than the way our bullying, abusive, violent father used his pain.
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          May 12 2013: I would have felt kind and compassionate to your brother. There are people on earth who can assimilate pain and suffering into positive virtues. There are more people outside of correctional homes than inside who have suffered a lot, whom life has not dealt with any fairness. But they can still smile and bear it with dignity and kindness.
          A bully should be handled with firm denial of his pleasure, I mean no hatred either, but I shall not feel inclined to be kind and accomodative to one.

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