How to Beat A Bully
May 4, 2012
I was scheduled for surgery and was given an appointment for pre-admission a few days prior. The signs in the hospital pre-admission area were clear, I walked confidently towards the wicket with my hospital card in hand. Before I reached the wicket I was waylaid by a volunteer: “Where you going?” He asked threateningly, with a menace in his voice. To pre-admissions, I replied. “What you want there?” His brows were knotted, eyes bulging, he was tensed up. To pre-admit, I answered. He scanned me suspiciously. “You have an appointment?” I was aghast. He was rude, threatening and hateful. Yeah, was all I could say. He waved me his consent to continue where I was heading. Then it hit me: was I just bullied? The scenario was eerily familiar. Walking down a school hallway, minding my own business when someone decides: hey, there comes a victim. Who would have imagined that age fifty-three I was still prone to bullies?
What made is worse was his maroon jacked. All volunteers at Toronto hospitals have the same uniform. I have one just like it hanging behind my bedroom door. The difference being, I volunteer because I care about people. I go for my shift to exercise compassion, not to flex my bully muscle. As I sat down in pre-admissions I began to feel violated, angry, victimized. It was a wonder I had managed to stay calm during the incident. I asked to speak to a manager in order to lodge a formal complaint. The manager was most sympathetic, she listened with her heart. Then the nurses came, one by one, to perform one test or another. In between, the manager came in to inform me that she had spoken to the volunteer supervisor. It seems this was not the first time this volunteer had bullied a patient.
I should have felt relieved. I ought have felt I won. Instead I still felt victimized. For days after I went over every detail of it to figure out what I could have done differently. I wished it had never happened. There just had to be something I could do to avoid being bullied again. Nothing came to mind. There were moments I wished I had smacked the man for picking on me. I felt disappointment in myself whenever those thoughts arose. I was failing to live up to the Gandhian ideal of returning love for hate. I was angry at myself for feeling angry. I couldn’t think of a good enough excuse to forgive him. This was a clear case of “anger being punishing yourself for the sins of others.”
Finally, someone shed some insight that freed me from this bully’s (and perhaps all bullies) shackles. It was pointed out to me that I had thwarted the fully bully cycle. What was that? I asked. Bullies provoke in order to get a rise out of the victim. Had I responded with anger, with violence (verbal or physical) he would have succeeded. I would have given him a reason to call security. He would then been the hero, having spotted a ‘trouble patient’ before anyone else had. Instead, by maintaining a rational, calm demeanor (despite an irrational incident) I became a credible complainant. The manager would not have believed me nor would she had taken steps against the bully if I had retaliated.
Though the incident had reminded me of my school days, it was different. Back then I had not retaliated either, but meekly accepted their abuse. I now realize I can speak up. I should speak up. This bully had perpetrated this kind of abuse on others. Perhaps others who were too timid to speak up, or perhaps could not articulate themselves. By keeping my cool, I helped disarm this bully form ambushing others.
Now I know what to do the next time.
1) Keep calm.
2) Be unfailingly polite, even under attack.
3) Seek out his superior (everyone has someone) and lodge a rational, logical complaint.
4) Let it go. Once you have done the above steps, do not allow the bully to soil the clarity of your mind. This was the only step that I did not fully accomplish this time. Next time, I am prepared. For this insight I am grateful, and also to this bully for providing the learning moment. Finally, I have a reason to forgive him.