I saw that question on one of my autism group and only then I realised that I didn’t share my views on that yet. In popular opinion bullying happens because bully is weak and has low self esteem. And it’s possible that is actually true – an assertive and confident person wouldn’t use such tactics for what very often seems like no reason.
However, I believe that the primary reason for bullying is the fact that bully wants to achieve certain social situation (they may want to be admired and appreciated) and they have no other way of communicating that need. Let’s say there is a group of 10 ladies who meet up regularly and one of them wants 80 percent of the air time in chit chat. Because that is what will make her feel good about herself, perhaps also this way she creates a situation where she becomes an informal leader, so if the group has to make any decisions like where to meet and what to do, her opinion will be taken into consideration first. She needs that for whatever reason. I believe only people who are narcissists or sociopaths bully people in purely social situations, but at work one can also get bullied into accepting a promotion. I wrote about it a few days ago, this is a totally different thing though and fits under workplace politics.
Ok, let’s go back to our lovely lady from the social group. Of course it will not be acceptable if she stated clearly that she has to be given loads of opportunities to speak and other people have to listen with admiration, so she will bully ladies who are trying to draw too much attention to themselves.
And the problem with us, autistics, is not that bullying only happens to us – it happens to absolutely everyone (maybe except of the people who are bullies themselves) but neurotypical people are able to quickly pick up on what is happening and either correct their behaviour (in this example – talk much less and offer signs of admiration to the lady who is bullying them) or to leave the situation completely and look for other friends.
With my current understanding of bullying I must say that the above are the only two choices people have. And everyone understands that, but us. So what is happening is, at first we don’t pick up on bullying techniques when those are still very subtle, and then we are staying in the situation and trying to fight the bully. The same problem would happen to absolutely everyone who doesn’t conform or leave.
Why people accept this behaviour is a different matter but perhaps that lady is very nice to talk to, funny, sometimes helpful (if only on her own terms) so some people will want to be a part of her social circle even if they know what she is like. And then others, who may have some doubts, will join in only because there’s nothing better available around.
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