The public united as a group can be mobilized via social media and related technology and coordinated into action. For this to happen  a spark is required—a single person standing up loudly and firmly against the action of a bully. Where such sparks go wrong, though, is in standing up against the bully himself. This simply provides the bully a second lone target. Instead, when observing bullying behavior, a better strategy might be to initiate a reaction in other observers to quickly form a vocal group consensus. With others behind you, then, you present the bully with too many targets to manage. Like an alcoholic facing a group intervention, the likelihood of changing the bully’s behavior increases dramatically.

This same principle applies in the adult world as well. Though childhood bullies can outgrow their bullying ways, many times they don’t, growing into adults who bully not with their fists but with their words. Standing up to adult bullies, however, may be hard in a different way (for example, the bully against whom we must stand may be someone in authority, like our boss, and standing up to them may risk more than just more bullying)—but the principle remains the same: find the bully’s peer group and enlist them in creating disapproving public opinion.

It remains all too easy in life when we aren’t the victim of bullying or abuse to tell ourselves another person’s suffering isn’t our problem. But whether we recognize it or not, we stand or fall together. For what isn’t our personal problem today may easily become so (or become the problem of someone we love) tomorrow. The power inherent in groups is both enormous and something any one of us can trigger. It’s something we don’t hesitate to use for selfish reasons. Why then shouldn’t we trigger it for selfless ones too?


Dr. Lickerman’s book The Undefeated Mind (link is external) will be published in late 2012.