Why we should step up instead of stand by

The power of The Incredible Bystander

Posted on April 29, 2019 by Dani Leever

Studies have shown in Australia that peers or classmates are present as onlookers in 85% of bullying interactions. There’s often a crowd when these things go down (both online and in person) – and whether they choose to realise or not, those crowds have a whole lot of power. So, with great power comes great responsibility: will the bystanders use their power for A.) good, or B.) evil mwahaha? Realistically, it’s usually option C.): they’ll do nothing.

When someone’s flinging insults, deliberately leaving someone out of a group or writing negative comments online, who’s gonna step up and save the day? Don’t look now! Could it be? Yes! It’s The Incredible Bystander!

(This is them, but in dog form)

Bystanders may decide to not get involved for a number of reasons; maybe they’re worried about being targeted next, they’re not sure what they can do to help, or maybe they think someone else will surely do the right thing.

P-ROCKERS everywhere know that when we see bullying happen and choose to do nothing, we’ve actually let it continue to happen. Silence in this case speaks volumes: it might say you’ve seen it and you don’t really care. That’s why we’re all about encouraging people to step up, instead of just standing by.

So, what’s The Incredible Bystander’s power?

Don’t worry, being The Incredible Bystander doesn’t mean getting into a superhero costume and saving the day Avengers-style. It can be something really small, but impactful, that has the potential of changing the entire situation around.

First, the person getting picked on knows that they have support. Secondly, the person being harsh gets strong messages about how they’re acting, and best of all, other bystanders can be encouraged to intervene next time. That’s pretty impressive, huh?

What can I actually do about it?

There are so many things that people witnessing a bullying situation can do to help out instead of scrolling on by, or making a big scene. Maybe you see a mate getting picked on, or someone you barely know – these are the strategies we’d recommend to de-escalate a situation if you saw it happening in real life.

  1. Evacuation plan! 🏂
    Sometimes the best way to stop a situation from getting worse is to get the person who’s being picked on outta there. Walk up the person getting picked on and let them know you’ll walk them out. Physically get them out of the situation – even take a few mates to make sure this happens safely.
  2. The magic of ✨ distraction. ✨
    Start a random conversation with the person being targeted to distract the situation. Talk about whatever: their favourite music, why pineapple doesn’t belong on pizza, how flamingos are the most underrated animals – you get the point. If the situation is feeling like it could get aggressive, it’s best to combine this with the above tip – do this while also walking the person away.
  3. Say something 📣
    This doesn’t have to be a 1900 word pre-rehearsed speech that ends up in a slow clap and a Nobel Prize nomination, but sometimes shutting down a situation means saying something as simple as, “hey, not cool,” or “I don’t really think this is okay.” This can encourage other people to step in as well, or get the person being targeted the confidence to stand up for themselves with you on their side. This one works both in person and online.
  4. Check in on them 💖
    One of the most important things you can do when you see someone having a rough time is letting them know later on that you’ve got their back. Sometimes, situations aren’t safe to intervene in, or they breeze by before you get a chance to think of the perfect thing to do. Send the person a message or chat to them later face-to-face and tell them you don’t agree with what happened to them, and you’re on their side. It seems small but can honestly change a person’s life.

Essentially, being The Incredible Bystander is all about using your empathy: putting ourselves in the shoes of someone having a rough time and asking ourselves, “ugh, that would really suck if that was me” or “I’d hate to go through that alone,” and using that to motivate you into action – no matter how big or small that action is.

As The Incredible Bystander, your power is endless. You have a massive impact to make, so go get ‘em.