Bullying is a process. It goes through stages, pre-beginning stage, beginning stage, middle stage, and late stage. Understand that depending on the people involved, the environment, and the situation, the bullying can move through the stages either quickly or more slowly and can even skip stages.
Pre-beginning Stage of Bullying
A group of classmates or coworkers (bullies) search for a target. Once they spot a potential target (PT), they watch them closely, studying them. Here’s what the bullies try to figure out:
- What excites the PT
- What makes the PT happy, sad, angry, upset, etc.
- What the PT most desires
- Any voids in life the PT has
- Any unmet and unfulfilled wants and needs the PT has.
- The PT’s body language and facial expressions to assess moods and mental states.
Understand that bullies want to know these things to figure out whether the PT would be an easy target.
Bullies test the waters by throwing out subtle or not-so-subtle insults and attacks to see how the PT reacts. If the PT gives the bullies the reaction they’re looking for, the bullies then select the PT and make him their target.
By this stage, the bullies have gathered the intel they searched for in the pre-beginning stage. They then weaponize it and use it in their attacks against the target.
For example: If the bullies find out that the target’s father is an alcoholic or that his wife cheating on him. They may use the info to bait the target into a reaction. They may say something to the effect of:
“Hey, So-and-so! I heard that your father is a drunk (or, your wife cheated on you)! Is that true?”
The target then fires back saying:
“No, he’s not (she didn’t)! You lay off!
They put the target on the defense, then build off the target’s defensive reaction. The bullies laugh and say, “Aww! ‘Smatter? ‘Truth hurt?”
And on and on the bullies build on each answer to get the target riled.
The bullies continue to berate the new target until they get bored with the same tactics. They then escalate the attacks.
In this stage, the bullies signal to other classmates or coworkers that the target is ripe for attack. Bystanders are encouraged, even recruited to unite with the bullies and join in the torment. They do this through gossip, rumors, accusations, and smear campaigns. One by one, people turn against the target until she has no support system and no friends left.
Now the target has become radioactive- no one wants to associate with the target because they know they risk becoming the next target if they do. To ensure their own reputations don’t become tarnished, the bystanders may either avoid the person altogether, or they become willing participants in the attacks. These people become secondary bullies.
The bullying becomes physical and the target begins to suffer physical attacks and beatings by the bullies. Although physical bullying can happen in the workplace, it’s much more common in the school environment.
Also, bullies and their recruits go home and tell their families what a terrible person the target is. The family members then spread the word to the people they know and everyone meets the target’s reputation before getting the chance to meet the person.
Bullying becomes mobbing when it reaches this stage! Now people who don’t even know the target wish to attack him. It becomes a case of “you don’t know me, but I know you.” Understand that this stage is the most dangerous because everyone has become so deranged and emboldened that they don’t try to hide their hate anymore. Why? They’ve gotten away with their abuse for so long that they know that there’s no incentive to stop the attacks.
And where there’s no accountability for abuse, there are no boundaries or limits to it. Therefore, the bullies (and everyone else) can now escalate the abuse at will. This is the stage that bullying has become life-threatening. Everyone in the community hates the target and wants nothing more than to see the target suffer. They don’t know why they hate the target and, more than likely, couldn’t tell you what the target did to deserve it. All they know is that they loathe the target and have an intense desire to destroy the person.
Again, this stage is the most dangerous and if you’ve reached this stage, now is the time to leave. Pick up and move to a different area and tell no one where you’re going or even that you’re moving. Just quickly and quietly disappear because your life may depend on it.