An unfortunate misconception in our society today is that in order to identify anybody pre-emptively, you would have to label them or put a stereotype on them. However, in many cases that is not true at all.
According to the book “The Gift of Fear” by John Eldridge, there are signs all around us at all times that act as small alerts to the possibility of danger or something being amiss. If we open ourselves to reading these signs, then we can avoid the danger or bad situation.
In the case of bullies, there are a few physical and psychological cues to the possibility of the student being a bully.
One characteristic to look for would be a nearly constantly aggressive or challenging stare. This individual may be subconsciously challenging anybody to give them cause to act as a bully. The individual may stare without blinking, glare, or squint slightly. These looks are not usually directed at any one person, but to all persons around the individual.
Look for emphasis on aggressive behavior towards smaller individuals. In order to bully, one must be able to indimidate another. Usually, one is unable to intimidate a person who is bigger, stronger, or faster than ourselves. So, be especially perceptive of an individual who seems to consistently direct a challenging stare to smaller individuals, but avoids bigger ones.
In nearly all cases of bullying, sullen behavior is observed on a large scale before and after the incident of bullying. Statistically speaking, bullies do not hurt others simply because they want to. There is almost always an underlying explanation for the behavior, which causes stress in the individual and builds up in them until they take their aggression out on another person. Bullying often results due to feelings of not being able to control one’s life. Though not a realistic solution, these individuals often resort to controlling another person’s life in order to escape having to try to control their own. An early warning sign of that possible behavior is sullenness, where the individual is non-responsive to kindness or politeness, un-cooperative in many social settings, and consistently tries to isolate themselves from others.
A final warning sign to a potential bully is a person who seems to separate themselves from the rest of the student body purposely. There is not an automatic correlation between a student being unique and outside the rest of the student body and that student being a bully. However, there is a greater chance of a student becoming or engaging in bully behavior if they do not feel as though they have any connection to the other students.
Taken individually, none of these warning signs seem overly worrisome, and they shouldn’t. When you combine two or three warning signs in one student, however, you may need to be watching for an opportunity to reach out to that person to prevent future harm to another.
Furthermore, the best way to deal with a bully is not to engage in similar behavior as the bully. Rudeness, suspension, expulsion, etc, truly do not help the bully at all, if that is your goal. These activities will keep the bully away from the other students, but will not help them in the long run. To prevent further bullying from the same person, it might be wise to attempt to help the student engage with the rest of the student body in a way that appeals to them. By creating a connection between the bully and their school or the other students in their school, you automatically reduce the chances of that student engaging in bully behavior again.