Bullying in the dance studio is definitely not fun. But it happens (see Part 1). And the first step to dealing with it is to realize what’s happening and to name it (to both yourself and others). Bullying, or a pattern of relational aggression, definitely doesn’t have to turn physical in order to be hurtful. But remember: you’re not a helpless victim, and you can get past this.
Why You Shouldn’t Keep Quiet About Dance Studio Bullying
Even if what you’ve experienced is an isolated incident of relational aggression rather than a definite pattern of bullying, you need to discuss it with someone outside of your dance studio. There’s something about saying something out loud that has the power to help remove any shame you feel over it and to release its power over you. Whether you choose to talk with a parent, a trusted friend, an older sibling, or someone else, you should focus on your own response. Ask your chosen confidant for ideas about how to respond if the issue surfaces again.
Why “I Statements” Might Not Be the Right Strategy
Many counselors recommend making “I statements” in response to certain types of relational aggression; however, for tweens and teens, that strategy might not be the most productive. According to sociology professor Dr. Laura Martocci, adolescent bullies often fail to respond positively to that kind of statement, because their aim is actually to make you feel small or hurt; by admitting that they are achieving their aim, an “I statement” can actually serve to encourage bullies to continue bullying you.
What You Could Try, Instead
Instead of responding in a way that reveals how the bullying has affected you, you’ll want to respond to any fellow dancer who’s been bullying you in a way that demonstrates your control of the situation. If your personality is on the introverted side, you may choose to confidently act as if the unkind words or actions don’t bother you. If you’re more extraverted, you may want to make a joke about it or respond by saying something witty that calls attention to what’s really going on. Perhaps you might lightheartedly say something like, “you don’t have to blow out my candle to make yours look brighter.” Whatever you do, make sure to not to give in to the temptation to bully the bully; you know what it feels like to be insulted or treated unkindly. Don’t perpetuate that kind of behavior toward anyone.
When You Think Honest Conversation Might Help
Depending on the situation, you may want to consider talking privately and individually outside of class. Especially if the dancer who’s been bullying you was once a friend, you may want to ask if you’ve done something to hurt or upset her. Tell her you want to do your part to turn things around. When she realizes that you value her and your relationship with her, she may no longer feel threatened by you. Hopefully, you can work together to come up with some guidelines for any future criticisms. Requesting an in-person conversation rather than a public confrontation is always a good place to start.
Continue reading with Part 3.