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Should one defy a bully?

Should one defy a bully?


How often we have been told through school days to keep our head down and concentrate on the main thing [studies] instead of taking “pungas” with bullies?  I think there is hardly any kid that goes through school not having had to face a bully at some point.  And for most of us, that one intense brush colors our outlook for life; and affects the way we approach power and authority figures later.


I have seen little literature that helps a child face bullying although there is much on how parents should manage bullying.  That is not to say that a child would be able to make use of such literature but still.  Considering the importance of the subject, there should be some that helps adults reexamine their childhood experiences and the impact those might have had in fashioning their responses in adult life.  Too often our general response to bullying in adult life is to shrink away from a confrontation in much the same way we did as children.


So should one defy a bully?  And if the decision is to defy, how and when should that be done?


A bully is someone who uses his size [or authority, power] to compel you to do something against your will even when custom, law or practice demands no such compliance with his or her wishes.  He may wish you to do something, refrain from doing something, or simply demand you pay obeisance to him as the recognized power/authority figure.


A bully by definition does not just bully you.  He also bullies many others like you.  He does so to add to his power and authority cheaply and without too much risk to himself in terms of injury or harm to his reputation as power/authority figure.  Bullying is a way to gain power, not just over you, but others as well, and to maintain such power over you and others.  The bully is usually much more interested in maintaining his power over the others he bullies [they are more in number and hence more important to him as a source of power] than he is in bullying you per se.  If you have grasped this rather counter-intuitive point, you are half way to winning the war against a bully even though you may lose the battle and have to nurse a bloody nose or put up with a black eye.  Consider.


The pay off matrix to an established bully is asymmetric.  If he successfully bullies you, he gains dominance over one more in his flock.  But if he loses, he runs the risk of similar revolts from his existing flock that is seething with repressed rage for such an opportunity.  And most of his existing flock knows that if the revolt is staged in two or three at a time, the bully backs off.  Bullying works only when it is staged one-on-one.   In all other situations, a bully has more to lose from a confrontation and little to gain.  His best bet then is to act very intimidating at the outset and execute his dominance in private.  Any prolonged public confrontation asymmetrically raises his risks of losing some of his existing flock.  That then is your key strength in fighting the bully.  He has more to lose in more ways than you do.


Once you have grasped the asymmetric pay off matrix, it is obvious that the bully will try to bully you only till his gain from bullying you is commensurate with the risk of losing face or igniting a revolt from his existing flock.  He cannot risk a prolonged confrontation as his risks multiply with time.  So in a fight with a bully you don’t have to win the first battle in order to win the war.  You just have to raise the cost of confrontation to the bully such that he is forced to think about his hold over his existing flock.  Forced to decide between maintaining power over others and bullying you into submission with additional investment of his limited time and energy, the bully will seek greener pastures elsewhere.  True, he will probably find another victim to bully but chances are he will leave you alone after the first confrontation.


The rest of the strategy then falls into place.  Don’t seek or concede a private fight.  A bully will seek privacy while he mauls you.  Never ever give him the opportunity.  Make the fight public.  Announce it to the world.  Put it in the public arena.  Give the bully no chance to hide either his act of bullying or to conceal the confrontation from others that he may be bullying.  If possible rally the others he bullies but this is usually not necessary.  You very act of defiance is usually enough to deter the bully if he has any brains and most bullies are sharp enough for that.


Time and numbers are in your favor.    The logic of the situation kicks in with your public act of confrontation.  Thereafter, it doesn’t matter if you win or lose.  A rational bully had few options but to back off from a prolonged confrontation.  Else his career as an effective bully is finished.  That’s a consequence of his asymmetric pay off matrix and has little to do with you.  But you have a lot more to gain than he does as time goes by.


So go ahead and defy.

Categories: Uncategorized
  1. Sachida
    June 4, 2012 at 3:58 pm

    Namste. Introspection is a need for everyone. You need more in your tweets.Thank you bully on tweeter for fading image of anyone whome you dislike personally.For a broad minded person, nothing is personal.

  2. June 10, 2012 at 10:17 am

    The concept of “bullying” nicely analysed.
    You are right that a bully seeks privacy when he wants to bully someone, so the best strategy for the victim is to call his bluff and bring it out in public.

  3. sushilpershad
    June 10, 2012 at 11:20 am


  4. June 13, 2012 at 11:27 am

    Nice one 🙂

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