7 Ways to File a Complaint about Bullying in a Healthy Way

upset young woman on smartphone

No one thinks twice when a parent, a coworker or a friend complains about the bullying they are experiencing. But according to research from Stanford University, complaining a half hour every day physically damages a person’s brain. In fact, negativity peels back neurons in the hippocampus. This part of the brain is used for problem solving and cognitive function.

Venting also floods the blood stream with the stress hormone cortisol each time the person complains.

As a result, the person doing the complaining ends up feeling stressed, upset and aggravated each time they tell someone. What’s more, over time complaining becomes a habit. And if your child is the one venting, he can become trapped in victim thinking.

The problem with complaining is that most people use it as a way to vent about things that are bugging them rather than focusing on complaining effectively. For instance research shows that approximately 95 percent of consumers who have a problem with a product do not complain to the company. But they will tell eight to sixteen people about their experience. These complaints are unproductive because they are venting to people who cannot resolve their issue. Consequently, they feel powerless and hopeless in their situation.

The same is true for a victim of bullying. If they complain to people who cannot help them, they are doing more harm than good.

They end up feeling like the bullying situation is out of their control and there is nothing they can do to stop it. While it is important to talk about bullying with others, it is equally as important to share bullying concerns with people who have the power to change the situation. This includes talking to the principal about bullying, having a conference with a teacher and even meeting with a counselor.

Here are some suggestions for making complaints about bullying more effective.

Start with a purpose in mind. Before you pick up the phone to report bullying to your boss or the principal, be sure you have a specific goal in mind. In other words, what do you hope will happen when you hang up the phone? If you know specifically what you would like to see happen, the other person will be better equipped to help you. What’s more, make sure you wait until you are calm before you lodge a complaint. If you call when you are feeling emotional or upset, the person on the other end will focus more on your emotions than what you are actually saying. It is more important to explain why you are upset, rather than to demonstrate just how upset you really are.

Make a positive statement. When reporting bullying to the school, you can set the stage for a positive outcome by opening with a positive remark. What’s more, they will be more likely to hear what you have to say. Say something like: “Thank you for taking the time to talk with me. I know you are really busy.” Remember, it is natural for people on the receiving end to get defensive if you start out with angry words. Keep in mind that complaints are accusations that something is wrong.

As a result, keep the focus on what the bully did and avoid making general comments about the school and its staff. Do not blame the teacher, the principal or the school in general for a choice that an individual made.

Keep it simple. Even if the bullying has been going on for a long time, focus on the most recent incident. You can provide a small overview of other things that have happened, but do not go into elaborate detail about each and every incident. You can provide that information later. Also be sure to relay the facts as much as possible and keep your emotions in check. Your communication should be simple, to the point and as a brief as possible.

Be polite. Remember that a complaint is a request for help. As a result, be sure your requests for assistance are polite. Also remind yourself that the person you are reporting bullying to did not bully your child, the bully did. Keeping this fact at the forefront can be challenging because it is hard to be nice when you are upset about the bullying your child experienced. If you are having trouble controlling your emotions, then say so. You can say something like: “I know I sound angry. I am not angry with you. I am angry about the situation.” If you let them know not to take what you are saying personally, they will be more receptive to what you are saying and what you are requesting they do.

Wrap up with a thank you. Always finish your complaint with a simple “Thank you for your help.” When you start with something positive and end with gratitude, you are more likely to get the results you want. Remember if you are pleasant when you are reporting bullying, the person on the receiving end will find you easy to work with. But if you are bent on demonstrating frustration and showing them just how angry you are, they will feel abused by your venting. They also are likely to tune you out or to think you are overreacting.

Think twice before complaining on social media. While it is easy to vent on social media, it also can backfire and hurt your child in the process. Not only are you exposing your child to potential retaliation from the bully, but it also can be humiliating for your child to have his situation exposed to the world. What’s more, you may expose him to more bullying or even public shaming. In general, it is always best to deal with a bullying situation in person or over the telephone. Then, follow up with a letter or an email confirming the conversation. Rarely, is it helpful to post your complaint on Facebook or Twitter. You will not get the results you want.

Avoid ruminating or dwelling on the issue. No matter what happens, be prepared to move forward and focus on helping your child overcome bullying once you have lodged your complaint. If you continue to dwell on the bullying you or child experienced, you will continue to feel victimized. To have good emotional health, you need to be sure you are keeping the bullying in perspective and doing what you can to protect your mind from the dangers of complaining too much.

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