We need to talk about bullying: How can we ensure it's "social commentary" rather than "nastiness"

Updated: Jul 31, 2019

Extracts from this article are in press with Happiful Magazine, Aug 2019

The divisive nature of Love Island has mirrored some of the vitriol of Brexit, with both camps shouting loudly, but no-one actually listening. This lack of an ability to hear seems to have resulted in a need to be right and instead of debate, some people on both sides are engaging in name calling and personal nastiness at each other rather than at the source of the issue. As a leadership coach I've always proposed that conflict is a positive thing - it allows you to see different view points on the topic, but you must be prepared to. If all you want to do is "be heard", it soon becomes "be right" and that can lead to what could have been a learning experience becoming a destructive one as it turns personal - especially online.

Bullying.co.uk (2019) defines bullying as:

“…repeated behaviour which is intended to hurt someone either emotionally or physically…[it can]… take many forms:

- Physical assault

- Teasing

- Making threats

- Name calling

- Cyber bullying”

While one could argue that “mean posts” are not necessarily “repeated behaviour”, it is important to remember that at least in the workplace, “bullying behaviour” is addressed when it is perceived as such by the recipient. Therefore, a better rule of thumb is to ask two questions:

- Would I be affected emotionally if I saw someone said that about me?

- Would someone I knew, and who I knew would see it, be affected by it emotionally when they read it?

…a third, if really necessary: If this was said about my son or daughter, would I find it unacceptable?

If the answer is yes to any of those questions it would not be appropriate to write about anyone.

Some would say with Love Island "It is what it is" and if you don't like it, just switch off, but notably those who love the show talk rather less about the contestants and more about the connection that collective viewing brings them at work:

"...and have a good old chit chat and debate about the superficiality of todays’ society; their behaviours and reactions towards one another."

However, what we might call “social commentary” – the discussion and analysis of relationship behaviours – is sometimes, in reality, cruel memes, hash tags, and a large amount of vitriol expressed on an edited narrative. Contestants on a RealityTV show (and people who choose to vote differently to you) are still people who will, at some point, see what has been said and potentially be affected by it.

What can we do instead

- Be mindful that we are not projecting unresolved anger about our own relationships onto our perception of contestants’ behaviour – and if we are – seek support for it.

- Call out the behaviour rather than labelling the person – rather than passing judgment on others eg: “Shocked at Maura’s forwardness, especially when Tommy said no.” rather than calling her a “sexual predator”; or if you are going to use the term use it as a description rather than a label “I would call that sort of behaviour predatory…” So often, parents and teachers are supported to refer to the behaviour as “bad” rather than the child – it is possible to do the same when passing comment. But also always remember that what you are watching is and EDITED NARRATIVE that may also have been staged to some extent.

- Avoid retweeting, sharing or repeating trolling comments – I note, positively, that there seems to be a censorship on the Love Island twitter feed, and many news reports now are not repeating any specific nasty tweets. However, demeaning comments are acceptable on some closed forums, and while of course there is freedom of speech – and it is a closed forum – perhaps we can also think critically about what we engage in and how constant contact in that environment may affect us.

- If something resonates with us, direct spare time and energy learning more rather than commenting. Learning may be more valuable than “likes” long term. (I'm all for Instagram hiding likes on posts by the way!)

Audrey is a Chartered Psychologist (CPsychol), and the author of "The Leader's Guide to Mindfulness" (2018) and "Be A Great Manager - Now" (2016) She is a CPD Accredited speaker, trainer, and qualified FIRO-B and NLP Practitioner. She is the founding Development Coach and Training Consultant with her training consultancy CLICK Training, and the resident psychologist on The Chrissy B Show (Sky191), the UK's only TV programme dedicated to mental health and wellbeing. She consults, coaches and often presents at National and International conferences in the fields of leadership and team cohesion, as well as being part of the Amity University conference panel. She currently lectures in Personal Development and Mindfulness and provides psychological consultancy in these areas to organisations.

Website: www.draudreyt.com

Insta/Twitter: @draudreyt

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