THE BULLYING POWER OF EXCLUSION:
SNUBBING, IGNORING, OR NOT INCLUDING OTHERS
By Joe Mannetti
That’s funny. She used to like or post supportive messages on my Facebook page all of the time. Now, it’s as if I do not exist any longer. He won’t return any phone calls or messages now. I do not even rate so much as a thank you for a holiday greeting. In fact, I cannot recall the last time anyone asked me to meet them for lunch or even a cup of coffee. I overheard a group conversation the other day. Everyone was laughing and talking about the wonderful social gathering they had enjoyed recently. They mentioned sharing the company of many people I know. Why wasn’t I invited? I cannot remember the last time anyone has taken the time to call me just to say hello. I feel so alone and shut out. When I see people out in public, I keep wondering what I could have done to become such a social outcast among them.
This is a description of a bullying tactic that goes unacknowledged far too often in society. It is potentially just as hurtful, damaging, and powerful as physical or verbal bullying. It is often referred to as “the silent killer” – the bullying act of social exclusion. In an article by Louise Burfitt-Dons
that was published in Class Magazine, she notes;
“What makes you unique can also make you a victim. Standing out from the crowd can hold benefits when it comes to bagging the star role, getting that great contract which requires special expertise or being memorable. But the downside to being exceptional is the tall poppy syndrome. It can also mean you may be seen as a threat by ‘the group leader’ and become isolated as a result… Bullies know exclusion is a control technique. Knowledge is power and we need to be constantly informed to advance our social and work careers. So keeping you ‘out’ of the group keeps them in—and ahead of the game. It also serves to distance you from your allies. Ostracizing causes introspection and fear because we perceive exclusion from others in our peer group as being as harmful for our survival as something that can physically hurt us. Plus it is intentionally degrading. Maybe we are not cool enough or smart enough for the A group invitation. God forbid—even an embarrassment. Deliberate exclusion is a smart but cruel manipulative technique…”
As with other forms of bullying, it is the willingness of others who follow the lead of the bully or bullies who instigate excluding any target that makes being socially ostracized so effectively painful. Others who see anyone as being the outcast start avoiding that individual like the plague. Suddenly, people you once called friends no longer have a place for you at their table. They walk by you without making eye contact or acknowledging your presence. The fear of being targeted themselves along with the fear of being associated with the person seen as the “outcast” encourages this behavior to grow and continue, which supports the original intimidation strategy initiated by any bully. It can go beyond social rejection too. Exclusion exempts people from job opportunities, community support, and a basic sense of connection that is vital to all human beings of any age. The same dynamic that works to a bully’s advantage in social settings and high schools can just as easily come into play in employment environments as well. Human resource representatives can be just as apt to bow down to the manipulations of the recognized “queen bee” at any job as school officials can be who look the other way when the school bully encourages others to exclude a particular student from group acceptance.
Exclusion is an insidious and dangerous form of bullying. Ignoring a bully is consistently the most effective response. Report the bully to the appropriate authority representative. But, if at all possible, avoid engaging directly with the bully. That goes for how to respond to exclusion too. Telling your colleagues you think you are being dropped or voicing your fears will probably have the opposite effect you desire if word gets back to the bully. Protect yourself. Be careful who you trust and choose to confide in during such a state of vulnerability. Remember, the people you are seeking support from will also probably start avoiding you too out of self-preservation in a competitive world. It’s very much like a domino effect. This can potentially increase your sense of isolation instead of building the support that can empower you against exclusion.
Don’t play into the bully’s hands by not turning up to meetings or avoiding social situations that you are invited to. It will give ample reason to exclude you from those important events that might hold the key to your future career, and just serve to isolate you more.
Be careful about exposing your distress about your situation to the wrong people – or even the “right” people who report it back to the wrong person (namely the bully). However you can, get the facts about what is going on as soon as possible before you’re so far out of the know that the door closes behind you. But always remember, bullies are imaginative and have been known to make up events to cause deliberate confusion and embarrassment. Their modus operandi is to paint you in an unfavorable light often by twisting facts and manipulating public opinion about you.
THE GOOD NEWS:
Group dynamics change constantly. So, stay positively involved and keep focused on your objectives. Keep striving to achieve them. The best way to beat a bully is to maintain that unique quality that makes you inimitable. Bullies hate that almost as much as being ignored.
THE BAD NEWS:
Social rejection is probably the most dangerous psychological condition when it is experienced long-term, both for the individual and for society. It often results in antisocial personalities, a loss of empathy towards peers, and places an individual under extreme psychological duress. In the worst case scenario, social outcasts may band together and begin to form dangerous ways of thinking about their place or role in society. One of the Columbine killers specifically mentioned the pain he felt from peer exclusion as a motive for the deadly attack.
The need for early intervention when grouping and exclusion takes place is clearly of vital importance