I’ve learned several important lessons over the years.
First, not everyone is kind. There are a lot of people out there who are afraid of anything and anyone who might be different. There’s not always a good reason for it.
Second, bullying and hurtful words doesn’t stop with age. Many of you who know me are very familiar with my rather exuberant, outgoing side. I’m one of the fortunate rare few who are pretty comfortable with who I am both inside and out. But that hasn’t always been the case. Even I’ve had my dark period, but I was fortunate to have a support system around me to push through.
I rebuilt myself stronger than ever and with a clear purpose/message; to help build self esteem in others. In fact, it was only a few years later when I got the opportunity to put my actions where my values were.
I worked in a private religious facility in my early 20’s. My department was a predominantly female one, and unfortunately, I’ve found women are sometimes the cruelest to one another. That particular day, one of our newer employees was working the information desk. She was probably in her early 50’s, and was working alongside another woman about 10 years her senior. As happens with all humans and most new employees, she made a mistake. It enraged the other woman. Furious, she grabbed the other, smaller woman by the elbow and yanked her from the desk, through the busy lobby, and down the back hallway toward one of the management offices in the back. She was chastising her quite vocally the entire way.
My eyes widened in shocked disbelief. By the time I stepped to the back, the older woman had released her and went back to her station, leaving the other woman in tears and upset.
Me: Are you okay?
Her: Not really. I know I screwed up, but I’m trying to learn as fast as I can. I’m so embarrassed. Everyone saw and heard the way she talked to me. I don’t know what to do.
Me: The way she talked to you was not okay. If you need to talk to the boss about how you were treated, you will have my support.
Once I knew she was calm, I let her go back to work and thought nothing of it….until, a few days later, I was called into our manager’s office along with the woman, we’ll call her Ms. X, who’d man handled the new hire.
Boss: I heard from the new hire that you told her she should talk to me about Ms. X reprimanding her.
Me: Not exactly. I had no problem with Ms. X (who was sitting in the room smirking at me) reprimanding her for her mistake. I did, however, take issue with the way she went about it.
Boss: You might not be aware, but this was not the first time that this discussion has happened.
Me: Again, my issue was not with the actual correction, but rather the method with which it took place. I had a problem with her bodily grabbing her and yanking her through an entire department in front of both staff and customers and yelling at her publicly. She humiliated her in front of customers and her peers. Regardless of what she may have done, that behavior was completely unprofessional.
Unfortunately, at that moment, the boss got an urgent call that she had to answer, so she let me go, warning me that in the future, it’s probably better to leave it up to my co-workers to work their differences out because apparently, my fearful peer had used my name as the reason she’d come to the boss, rather than her treatment.
As the boss focused on her phone call and I stepped out of the room, Ms. X put her hand on my forearm and stopped me. I looked down at her arm, then directly into her face.
Ms. X: (with a slight squeeze to my arm) Don’t worry, Kitt, I’ll warn you before I bite.
Me: (placing my hand atop hers, and smiling) Oh, don’t you worry, Ms. X. I bite back.
The older woman quickly removed her hand and backed away. Messaged received. She’d think twice before pushing anyone around in my presence.
That was the first time I realized that growing up did not stop bullying. But there was a difference in how I handled it. I’d become stronger.
Third, not everyone is as strong as you, so if you are the stronger one, be brave. Speak out. Maybe that’s why I love the Hunter Hayes song so much. He knows. He gets it. And he’s sending the message that he’s been there, too. If you haven’t heard it, here it is.
Fourth, the one think you will always have control of in this life is YOU. Your response to trials, your choice in allowing negative things to impact you. In fact, this young lady’s response to bullying warmed my heart and changed an entire community.
Fifth, good or bad, you are an example and you never know who’s watching. Bullying is a learned behavior. Don’t think you’ve ever bullied anyone? Consider how you might be handling people who might not share your point of view.
This world can be a challenge. Living is not for wimps. We all need a little help sometimes. Who has helped or inspired you? I’d love to hear about it.