Queer Bullying Victims Sit Down with Former Bullies | them.
How to Deal with Former Bullies at a High School Reunion
Many people get bullied in high school. Seeing your former bullies as an adult can be tough. Prepare yourself by adopting the right attitude before attending your high school reunion. Decide whether you want to talk to your former bully or just avoid them. Whatever your choice, consider it carefully and try to have a good time at your high school reunion.
Readying Yourself for the Reunion
Plan ahead.Contact the reunion committee -- the group that organized the reunion -- and have them email you a full list of everyone who will be attending. If the bully’s name is on it and you really don’t want to see them, there is no shame in not attending.
- However, you should carefully weigh whether avoiding a former bully is more important than the chance to meet other alumni from your graduating class.
- When you contact the organizing committee, thank them for their hard work in putting the reunion together.
Think about what you have to gain by confronting the bully.If you lived each day of your high school career in fear of going to school because of a bully, you might feel an increased sense of agency and power by finally confronting this demon from your past. However, speaking with your bully might also be anti-climatic, or lead to new feelings of frustration. Before confronting your former bully, be sure that it’s what you really want.
- Seeing your personal bully again can help you contextualize both your life and the bully’s. For instance, if you see your bully has accomplished very little of value since high school, while you have accomplished a great deal, you will feel proud of yourself and take pleasure in how pitiful the bully has become.
- If your bully has changed or is apologetic, you might be able to put the past behind you.
Stay grounded.Talking to or even seeing your former bully might inspire feelings of anger, sadness, embarrassment, or emotional pain. Prepare against these feelings before heading to your high school reunion by getting in the right frame of mind.
- Use one positive word to describe your own attitude and behavior, and repeat it over and over again like a mantra.
- For instance, you might repeat “compassion” or “peaceful” over and over and picture yourself in a beautiful, green meadow by a lake. This way, you will remain calm and won’t become agitated or angry when you see the bully again, even if you only see him or her from a distance.
- You could also take a big breath in, then let it out slowly through your mouth over the course of five or six seconds. Do this several times to calm your mind and reduce your heart rate.
Remember you’re not in high school anymore.Seeing your bully again may make you feel like you are back in high school again. Try to remind yourself that both you and your bully have gone through many changes. Even if it has only been five years since your high school graduation, you and your bully may have both had a series of jobs, relationships, and other important experiences that shaped and changed you.
- Your bully might no longer be the same person. The things your bully has experienced might have transformed them into a totally different person.
- Evaluate your current stance on moral and life issues, your values, and your interpersonal relationships. How have you changed since high school? Would your current self even be bullied? Would your current self allow it?
Consider how you’ve overcome (or not overcome) the bullying.Bullying has many near and long-term impacts.Take time to think about how being bullied has or hasn’t impacted your life. For instance, you might:
- engage in bullying yourself
- be less healthy than other people your age
- have clinical depression
- take up smoking
- feel angry
- become socially withdrawn
Avoiding the Bully
Connect with friends and family.If you’re preoccupied with unpleasant memories, you won’t have fun at the reunion. Instead, eat, mingle, and act normally. Cherish the opportunity you have to reconnect with old friends and classmates.Instead of focusing on the former bully, focus on the good people whose company you enjoy.
Acknowledge that avoiding a former bully doesn’t make you weak.It simply means you realize that they are not worth your time and energy.Don’t let your pride or emotions push you to confront the former bully unnecessarily.
- Also keep in mind that your bully will likely not engage with you either, so not approaching your bully is nothing to worry about. Focus on reconnecting with the people you enjoyed spending time with in high school and who treated you with respect.
Don't feel obligated to engage with former bullies.Some wounds never heal. If your former high school bully reaches out to you either before or during the reunion, you are under no obligation to speak with them.You don’t owe them anything, and you should not be made to feel that you do.
- If a former bully tries to engage you in conversation -- even pleasant conversation -- you are perfectly within your right to excuse yourself.
- You can be direct or indirect when excusing yourself. You might simply go get something to drink, or you could be direct with the former bully and say what’s on your mind.
- For instance, you might say, “I’m not really interested in speaking with you because you were rotten to me when I was growing up. Good day.” Turn on your heel and walk away.
Observe the former bully.Are they still a loudmouthed jerk? Or have they softened with age?Watch how they behave from afar.
- Do they talk pleasantly with everyone? Or do they exclusively stick with their old clique? If they’re talking with everyone, they might be less combative and mean-spirited than they were back in high school.
- If you can, try to pick up on a bit of their conversation as well to figure out if they've changed for the better.
- If you think they are reformed, consider talking to them about your feelings.
- If they seem to be unchanged and obnoxious, stay away from them.
Move on with your life.Just seeing your bully, whether he/she is well-adjusted and pleasant or still a jerk, may give you a sort of catharsis. Even if you don’t speak to your former bully, seeing them might make it easier to accept that the past is past. After the reunion, work to address any lingering impacts the bullying may have had on you.
Confronting the Bully
Address their bullying.The impact of bullying on teens and adolescents can last a lifetime. Sometimes telling the former bully how you felt growing up in high school and/or how you still feel can help you heal old wounds.
- Be honest when expressing yourself to the bully. This might be your only chance to tell them exactly what you think. Let them know that what they said and did to you was hurtful and wrong.
- If you choose to unburden yourself to the former bully, don’t expect them to care. While you might hope that the former bully will repent and ask forgiveness, they might be totally unreformed. You might hear them say that the events that made such an impact on you were “No big deal” or “A long time ago.”
Don’t try to hurt the bully.Be mature when talking to them. Don’t let your former bully’s bad behavior become a license for you to sink to their level. Don’t hurl insults their way, or criticize the way they dress. It might feel good in the moment, but you’ll be disappointed in yourself later.
- Control your nonverbal behavior, too.Don’t roll your eyes or make a mean face at the former bully.
Accept the former bully’s apology.In the best case scenario, your former bully will reflect on what you’ve said and realize how wrong they were. As hard as it may be, you should accept their apology gracefully.Accepting an apology, especially from someone who caused you significant emotional and/or physical pain, shows strength of character.
- Do not accept insincere apologies. If the bully laughingly says “Sorry about that one time I broke your jaw and left you in the hospital for two weeks,” let the bully know that what they did was very wrong and that sort of apology isn’t good enough. Say, “I see you’re still the same. Too bad.” Walk away and don’t engage with them further.
Leave if you feel uncomfortable.If you’re unhappy at your class reunion because of the presence or behavior of the former bully, you don’t need to stay. Do what’s right for you. Bid a polite farewell to friends and acquaintances and make your exit.
- Hopefully your bully has matured enough not to physically confront you, but be aware that they might be just as immature now as they were back in high school, especially if alcohol is involved. If they try to get physical with you, don’t provoke them. Just get out of there and contact the authorities.
Video: A Bully Apologizes To Her Victim 15 Years Later
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