Why Do People Bully?

A bully is “a person who hurts, persecutes, or intimidates weaker people.” I am sure you can relate to this definition of a bully as we have met such persons either at home, school or work place.

Bullies target those who are coy, sensitive or are not psychologically strong to face unsavory remarks. Bullying seems to belong to antiquity and must have originated with human existence as it is embedded in the behavior of some people.

People bully:

Image from Google
  • To intimidate
  • To gain control
  • To satisfy their ego
  • To prove their power
  • To settle scores
  • Due to low self-esteem
  • Out of frustration
  • Out of emotional deprivation
  • Just for fun

Bullying begins at home and many children pick it up from their parents who might be arguing, threatening or pushing the partner to the wall to prove his/her point. So bullying is a learnt behavior.

Sometimes a parent sets an example through his own rigid behavior and high expectations. He may alienate himself from other members of the family. Children who grow up in emotionally insensitive families fail to learn the virtue of empathy. They learn to take pleasure in the pains of others.

Sibling rivalry and favoritism within a family leaves an indelible mark on the psyche of children. They either lean towards bullies or develop a low self-esteem. A girl child who is constantly badgered for being a liability and told that she must learn good behavior, as she has to get married is bullied with such words! This kind of attitude encourages the male sibling to bully her further. She learns to accept this kind of verbal and emotional bullying at her own home.

When parents are indifferent to making fun, teasing and hurting amongst siblings and don’t take punitive measures to stop such behavior, a bully may feel encouraged, as the mute message that reaches him is that such a behavior is acceptable.

In some cases children who like to bully could have been neglected at home and they grow up with the notion that nobody cares for them.

Lack of positive role models in our lives, dominance of leaders who bully and coaches who encourage the players to be aggressive give a boost to such behavior in our society.

Bullying at school is accepted as normal aggressive behavior of some children. It may begin with a little fun or unpleasant remarks out of jealousy but it doesn’t stop in case of an introvert who doesn’t share his thoughts. It is often neglected till it acquires gigantic proportions and could have already proved psychologically detrimental for the victim.

First and foremost, bullying needs to be reported to a teacher or a parent. Students who choose to fight their own battles or ignore inappropriate behavior indirectly encourage a bully.

Second, it is essential to take some action against bullying to set an example for others and send a clear signal that such a behavior would not be accepted.

Third, please remember… Bullying never has to do with you. It’s the bully who’s insecure,”says Shay Mitchell.Bullying quote

It is extremely important to sensitize children about mutual respect and kindness at an impressionable age. Talks, discussions, projects and workshops, which focus on behavior could be organized at school to nurture compassion and empathy.

It is quite challenging to approach a bully and criticize his inappropriate remarks. He may not be responsible for them. A teacher who knows her students has to approach them gently, without hurting their sentiments and self-esteem. The focus has to be on correction and not criticism of behavior.

If we dig deeper, it can be discerned that bullies too need help. Such children are themselves the victim of some insensitive behavior at home or are upset with their own self. Their own demons are larger than life. They would never share the real reasons of such behavior. Some of them may not even be aware of the reasons and the consequences of bullying on their personality.

A bully is a hard nut to crack. The right approach would be to talk to him, show him positive approach towards life without actually hinting at his behavior. A teacher who knows a bully’s behavior or a psychologist in a group can do this. While group therapy can be helpful in some cases, such a student needs a close monitoring. Parents too have to step in if they are really concerned.

When bullying enters work places, it becomes uncontrollable as employees accept it calmly with the cliché… ‘Boss is always right.’ I have heard that phrase a thousand times and told to ‘accept’…even injustice! At this stage of life when we are capable of standing against bullying, we look the other way.

I have seen that people have their own reasons for accepting such behavior. Some don’t want to lose their job; some want promotion or favors while many are cowards who have been conditioned to become a ‘yes-man’ for the sake of peace. They become the cronies of those who sit in the comfort of their chairs to bully through their henchmen and smile at their successful strategies.

I have met many bullies but refused to surrender to their dirty games. I was always guided by the words of Lincoln – “I would rather be a little nobody, than to be a evil somebody.” 

How many bullies have you met? What was your approach?

Thank you for reading this. Please share your valuable reflections, as they are much appreciated.

If you have liked this post, please share it at your favorite social networks.

Balroop Singh.



56 thoughts on “Why Do People Bully?

  1. What an important topic and you tackled it so well from different angles, Balroop. Interesting to hear of the reasons people bully, from that list it seems that quite often bullying comes from wanting to gain the upperhand and out of self-centredness. Agreed that bullying can start at home. It made me think that if a child is always thought they are right, then maybe they will be more prone to bullying because they will grow up thinking that they are indeed right and assert themselves. Growing up without leaning to virtue of empathy is sad, but at times home situations can be why – perhaps they come from a broken family and they take it out on others when they are at school. Also agree with you that bullies need help – pointing out their anti-social behaviour can be tough but it has to be done somehow. Sometimes picking a quieter moment to bring up such behaviour with them might help.

    Over the years I’ve met many bullies, people who would put me down or take credit for work that I’ve done. It’s always challenging to speak up because by speaking up, one might anger the bully and they might make life harder for you. Usually I don’t let bullies get to me and just cut them out of my life and move along.

    1. It is good to cut bullies out of our life if possible…what if your own family members happen to be bullies or if you happen to get stuck with such a boss? I have seen many women (even educated ones!) suffer silently and being bullied after marriage not just by the families they have to live with but their own spouses. For them, speaking up is challenging, as they know it would anger the perpetrators. I had a colleague who dared to share her incredible story with her friends…a story nobody would believe but is true…all her salary was snatched from her by her father-in-law, she didn’t have any access to her own money and had to work at home, made to do all the chores before going for work and after going home. Bullying can go to such extremes!

      1. You are so right that sometimes we have no choice but to be stuck with bullies and bullying can go to extremes. The story of your colleague is a sad one and hopefully she can find a better place to be. It is times like these we have to remember to be strong and remember being bullied is not our fault.

  2. Bullying is ABUSE. Period.
    I agree, it begins at home. We have a zero tolerance at our school, but this doesn’t stop kids from doing it when we’re not looking. You see, it makes them feel BIG)) when in actuality, they feel quite small.
    AND adults, too. I’ve been bullied and it HURTS like hell.
    We must stand up to it, right?
    That’s the first step.
    Great blog, words, awareness, Balroop. xxxxxx from MN.

    1. Rightly said Kim…in reality those who bully are the ones who are insecure, fearful and hurting. They try to hurl their hurts at others, thinking they can derive pleasure but they suffer more! When adults bully, they seem to have a sick mind and most of them think they are a superior race. Losers!

  3. Bullying = abuse, no way around it. Your post was succinct Balroop, especially in covering the varied ways bullying stems from. I’ve written many articles on this issue and I too was one of those victims where bullying, although not even thought of then, took place in my home.
    Great share my friend. 🙂 x

    1. As a child I too didn’t know coercing or speaking hurtful words is called bullying but I knew this is not right because anything that seems to oppress you or make you feel inferior cannot be called pleasant. I know Deb…we are soul sisters in many ways. Thanks for your kind words. 🙂

      1. Indeed we are Balroop. And of course, with wisdom comes ages so we weren’t expected to no that such treatment wasn’t ‘normal’. 🙂 x

    1. Thank you Charley…bullying can only be controlled if we rise up and speak against them. So it all begins with us…one single person who dares! 🙂

      1. I have dealt with many, an emotional and calm response helps in breaking the ice but they hide behind many layers, which unfold slowly if we keep up the efforts.

  4. I’ve always thought adult bullies were the worst, since they should know better and their bullying can resort to more violent behavior. Children who bully more often than not don’t have the proper parental guidance…it’s very sad.

    1. I agree with you Jill, adult bullies are the most irresponsible individuals, forgetting who is watching them and what a bad influence they are for youngsters around them. Thanks for sharing an important point.

  5. Sharing your insightful post on bullying at many levels, Balroop… Thanks for bringing this important subject to the forefront.

    Here are a few personal thoughts from me–
    My advice to kids who are being bullied is this—surround yourself with compassionate adults and let them know what’s happening. Smile, reach out and be kind to other kids. Everyone needs a friend.
    Adults, keep your eyes open and find caring kids to pair up with any child who is always alone or being bullied—children who are different in any way. Befriend kids in your neighborhood—a caring adult can make a world of difference and set an example for children and for other adults to follow.

    ❤ Bette

    1. Many thanks for sharing my post Bette, much appreciated. This universal topic needs to be discussed to create the awareness about bullying, which is often brushed under the carpet at all levels. Love your advice dear friend, I know you too feel strongly about it as we have seen it from close quarters as teachers…caring and understanding teachers too can make a big difference.

  6. I’ve known too many bullies. They are indeed the insecure ones. They pick on the happy, confident types because they are threatened by that. I’ve stood up to them when directly threatened by them, but also when someone I care about is visibly being bullied. Has that always been the right way? Not always but it usually quelled the bully and they went elsewhere. Great post, Balroop. Such an important topic these days, as the President uses bullying…and some people let it go—wrong. Thanks for writing this!

    1. I absolutely agree with you Lisa, bullies feel threatened from confident and strong individuals, that’s why they try to hit below the belt. They don’t have any self-esteem that’s why they attack those who like to live with dignity and refuse to be intimidated. I am glad you know how to deal with them! Thanks for sharing your insights.

  7. A very apt post. Bullying is a form of abuse. Now bullying has entered the virtual world too – cyberbullyism. Bullying builds character like nuclear waste creates superheroes

    1. When our leaders’ approach is such…all kinds of bullies get encouraged and get away even with open verbal abuse at cyber space! Thanks for sharing your view Indrajit.

  8. You have presented this big issue in our society very well.
    I love the quote you give by Harvey Firestone. Such a good guideline. As to all different reasons why children and grown ups become bullies…yes, they are not happy in themselves. There can also be other psychological factors.

    I just read a book I can not recommend highly enough: ” The Bear Town” by Fredrick Blackman. In its very strong and sensitive story bullying just is shown as it happens. Amoung children and adults. I saw abuse mentioned in some comments and agree, many times bullying turns very cruel.


    1. Thank you Miriam for sharing the name of the book, which highlights bullying…it has been increasing as it is easier to bully through tweets and comments, actually these are the tactics of intimidation and people easily fall a prey to fear. I appreciate your concern towards this big issue that has been eating into the social fabric of humanity. Thanks for sharing that.

  9. An excellent post, Balroop, and timely as another school shooting takes place in the US. It’s amazing how many of these horrible situations stem, at least partially, from kids feeling bullied. A difficult home life puts kids at a disadvantage and often sets them up for escalating challenges at school. We would do well as a society to start caring about our childrens’ sense of belonging at school. There should not only be a zero tolerance of bullying but efforts made to help all kids discover their strengths and feel included. ❤

    1. I feel the kids are becoming oversensitive and self-centred, as they focus only on their own desires and needs. Probably this is the price that we have to pay for individualistic society we chose to establish by telling youngsters to fend for themselves when their values are not fully developed and they are still incapable of taking mature decisions. Parents and teachers have to play a more responsible role in making them understand the distinction between the good and the evil and how their choices affect the society.
      Thank you Diana for taking out time to share your views about this all-important universal topic.

  10. Bullying is one of the worst forms of abuse and bullies usually have all those character traits you’ve listed here. I’ve met quite a few bullies in my life, in school, college and workplace. All of them, generally think that it’s their birthright to make others feel insulted or down. I really do think bullies need psychological help for I’m sure they lead a disturbed life, a life where there is no happiness and so they want to seek sadistic pleasures in this way. I hate bullies. I know “hate’ is a very strong word, but just can’t help it!

    I just shared your post with one of my friends who once was a victim.
    Wonderful post on the topic. indeed.

    1. Thank you Mani for sharing my post with a friend who would understand it, as a victim derives great satisfaction from the in-depth analysis of such an issue that may have plagued at some stage. I must say that I have learnt a lot from bullies, which is…not to belittle others, how much it is important to respect others, why we need to be kind and listen to small problems of others, why arrogance hurts and above all, not to be like such unpleasant individuals who think no end of themselves. Eventually who gains?! Bullies are always the losers!

  11. You touched on this topic exceptionally, Balroop, and it ties in with my recent post, as well. Bullying alone is a form of abuse and challenging to deal with from all angles; but now with social media, its ability has expanded to cause even more hurt instantly. One of the negatives to social media and technology’s progression.
    I agree with you that children who bully need psychological help and their behavior has been influenced most likely from their home life. Adults who bully have no excuse. I echo some of the other comments in that adults know better, and no one is above anyone else. We’re all equal, all breathing the same air…great post.

  12. I agree with you Lauren, technology has given the bullies another platform to give vent to their own frustration! They are highly insensitive people who think bullying would make them superior! In fact it reveals their real self too well and right-minded people withdraw from such bullies. In the end they exist alone, in their own self-made webs! 🙂

  13. Bullying is so harmful to kids–adults too. My focus is on the cyberbullying which is even worse. It’s hard for kids to get past that horrid things are said about them across the internet.

  14. Excellent post… So many relevnt and accurate points… Bullying is part of The Winner culture, it is related to individualism and lack of empathy, I´d say. I have recently came across an article clled “The courage to b disliked” (which was actually a book review)… It mentioned Adler and his ideas of how we should achieve our goals in life without needing to destroy others… A strong sense of Community is needed to end Bullying, I believe.
    Hugs & best wishes, dear Balroop ❤

    1. Thank you for your kind words Aquileana…there is no doubt about your assumption that individualism plays a crucial role in the life of bullies who consider themselves to be the winners but they dwell in their own self-created castles, which are hollow from inside. Yes, when communities rise against somebody, his doom is certain. 🙂 Love and hugs back to you dear friend.

  15. Outstanding post, Balroop. It’s a definitive guide to understanding and dealing with bullying. I like that you said, ‘. . .bullies too need help.’ All negative behavior is based in neglect or abuse, unless the person’s brain is wired wrong. Most of the bullies I’ve encountered were striking out due to a deep hurt. How wonderful that you took your own experience with bullies and created this excellent post ❤️

    1. I have seen bullies from close quarters Tina, as a child and as a teacher. I have observed that bullies learn this behavior from their families and environment. There is no doubt that negative behavior breeds contempt, which has to get some outlet. I have spoken to some teenagers, who were called incorrigible by teachers as well as their own parents and discovered that their anger had some solid reason, they felt insignificant inwardly but didn’t want to show.
      I appreciate your kind words dear friend. Stay blessed!

  16. I was a bully in elementary school, but when my mom’s bad years of mania started, I did a complete turnaround and stopped being mean. I often wonder why I did things like make a neighborhood boy sit in a mud puddle and put his soggy hat on his head. I think I needed that measure of control for various reasons and had to act out. When I was a teacher, the subtle and no-so-subtle ways students can bully could be exhausting at times. It’s probably another of the reasons why I let the classroom.

    1. I am glad you turned around Jeri…probably you realised the intensity of hurts…I have met the first person who admits that your behavior was inappropriate otherwise bullies always try to cover up with some excuses or shifting the blame. We are ourselves responsible for all we do when we start understanding the consequences. Thanks for sharing your personal example of becoming a better person, much appreciated. 🙂

  17. Balroop, an in-depth and thought-provoking post … and the discussion afterwards is outstanding as well. I was about to write how there is zero tolerance towards bullying in my son’s schools. Then I realised this is a worthy ideal and whilst the most obvious forms are handled, there are so many insidious events everyday which, as you say, are accepted. That this continues into working life is depressing … I would have hoped this has changed! I am sure there are many places where this is not the everyday, although aware of experiences as per your examples. Firestone’s and Lincoln’s words are ones to live by … great quotes to share on this topic.

    1. I am glad you have liked the discussion Annika, thanks for contributing your valuable points. When we say zero tolerance towards a deep-rooted human tendency, we are just hoping to awaken people towards keeping their moves within limits and that is how hypocrisy tip-toes in! Many people bask in the glory of ‘insidious events’ while many don’t even get the whiff of what is really going inside…this is what happens at so called elite places of work, their inner working can only be understood when you get nearer. 🙂

  18. This is such an important topic of discussion Balroop, and you have presented a wonderful post that touches so many aspects of bullying and how bullying may begin and the reasons it should be stopped..
    I speak from the perspective of being a child who was bullied at school and my Son also was bullied, now my granddaughter who is only aged seven is finding she too is being bullied..
    We would hope that in today’s world that as bullying is now widely spoken about it would not be so prevalent, unfortunately it is not the case..
    This is why your post is so important in understanding why bullying is still happening. Awareness still needs to be brought to bullying and the effects it has..

    A great post Balroop.. Thank you as always for your wisdom.. ❤
    Sue ❤

    1. Your reflections reveal a sad truth about bullying…it has always been there! Nobody wants to nip this in the bud and initial aggressive behavior of a child is ignored, at homes and schools. Then they see bullying around them and want to settle scores…the vicious circle goes on, that’s why all generations have seen it. To my mind, even an unsavoury remark or coercing somebody to do as you want is bullying, which is ignored in the name of love or welfare. A father who says… ‘do as I tell you,’ without explaining the reasons and motives, without convincing the child, is a bully who is sowing seeds of bad behavior. I doubt whether bullying can be rooted out of our societies as it has cropped up in new form now, with smart phones in our hands, anybody can say anything.
      Thank you Sue, for adding your insights to the discussion. Your love and support is always appreciated. 🙂

      1. Yes it is sad, and you are right I doubt it will ever be extinguished while we are ego driven to control by fear.. But we keep on keeping on, bringing awareness to others and maybe someone who is a bully may just stop for a second and THINK.. ❤

  19. Hi Balroop, This is such an Insightful post on bullying, a behaviour that is widely prevalent in all sections of the society, at all places. Nowadays, bullying can be seen so often on social media too, where at the slightest provocation or even without any, people start trolling others. Sometimes, it starts as a joke and then in the name of humour, people try to push others to the wall. Obviously, those who bully feel there’s nothing wrong with it and think that they have every right to corner others.
    As you have said, bullying might be a result of their own insecurities or mental conditioning that no one ever attempted to correct. That makes it important to know how to deal with bullying and refuse to be subjected to it.
    Also, the idea that bullying is unacceptable should be inculcated in the minds of children right from their childhood.
    Thank you for sharing such an in-depth post on a widespread problem, which goes unacknowledged most of the time.

    1. Cyber bullying has increased in the recent years, with a smart phone in every hand, people have nothing better to do than abuse those whom they dislike, as it is easier on social media…they know they can’t be hit in the face! Some irresponsible so called politicians have hired their goons to bully those who don’t agree with their retrogressive views and therefore trolling gets encouraged. Behind all this is the basic behavior, which has trolled them from dark ages and they have refused to learn that times have changed.
      Many thanks for your consistent support Somali, much appreciated. Have a wonderful weekend.

  20. I think people get into bullying because they witness a similar behaviour around them. They don’t have any idea about it’s psychological effect on a victim.

  21. Very relevant topic, Balroop. I totally agree that bullying can be learned; I am afraid I learned a bit myself. We can strive to “unlearn” it, and I have done that to the best of my ability. We are all “only human,” but that is a limited excuse. We have the power to break the cycle, and we owe it to ourselves and those we love to be the best we can be. 🙂

  22. I never enjoyed my highschool life.. been bullied many times and that continues to my first and second job. What I do know is I’m being bullied for something they dont usually have’ .. As I mature I learned how to fight back and understand the behaviours of others.. I’ve learned the importance of self awareness first and the values in it.

    Thanks for sharing!
    God Bless

    1. Well-said Rhea…self-awareness and confidence in our own self can do wonders. Stay blessed. Thanks for visiting Emotional Shadows, much appreciated.

  23. Balroop2013 I couldn’t have said it any better, I am a person that is in a position to document and enforce regulations related to workplace bullying until one day a narcissistic boss in a rage started in on me. For the last two years it has been hell until the other day when he physically assaulted me. I’m done, I am done playing his game, I am making sure this is known and known at the highest levels of the company, it may cost me my job but I will let them know and get it on paper so that when this guy loses it again, he is out!

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