I’ve never been all that susceptible to bullying. There have been times that I felt bullied or pushed by various people in a variety of contexts; however, I wasn’t aware of it in the moment. The feelings in the aftermath were, as expected, a deep sense of betrayal and insecurity and rage.
I think sometimes it is easy to utilize intimidation or coercion because it’s not easy to spot and those susceptible are unlikely to say something. I think sometimes people bully others because they were bullied and it worked. I think sometimes people who are desperate are more likely to bully because they will try anything. I think it is easier to bully on social media because there’s no eye contact, no person to see. I think women are bullies in a different way than men — a man or a boy would punch someone or otherwise interact physically; women, on the other hand are much more likely to be bullies in an emotional way, generally.
I think there is a lot of bullying in the breast cancer community, particularly the metastatic community.
And that sucks.
I have a strong personality and when I get pushy, I know that it can be perceived as bullying. I don’t always see how my words or actions affect others. Because I am less susceptible to being bullied, I don’t always see the fact that others are different, that being pushy could be interpreted as bullying. I try to check myself and I’ve asked people around me to tell me if I’ve crossed the line.
I give free reign to anyone reading this post to call me out if you think I have or am bullying someone!
Also, I’m all for speaking truth to power and dismantling the patriarchy. I think speaking truth in a forceful or different way is not a bad thing. I think being passionate and calling out organizations who are doing something wrong is incumbent on all of us. I think speaking up about disparities, whether based on gender, race or something else, is required of good people.
Yet, what I often see happening in the breast cancer community is that we react and shoot off a response or message quickly without thinking things through sufficiently. I also think that we’re often scared out of our minds, in pain, not able to sleep and that means our reactions are not always kind.
When I was actively practicing law, my area of focus was family law. That meant I was at the heart of many divorces all day long every day. Those divorcing people needed to interact, especially if kiddos were involved, and I spent a lot of time coaching various people on how to interact given the fact that an email or text or voice mail or social media posts were likely to be entered into evidence.
The advice I dispensed most often was this ….
Picture someone you trust, you respect, you know can hurt you if they get mad. A boss maybe. A parent. A best friend. Once you have that person’s face or mannerisms or role fixed in your mind, then respond.
Think about it, what do you do when you are communicating with someone you respect?
- You give them the benefit of the doubt.
- You assume the best.
- You couch your words carefully to avoid causing offense.
- You use professional language.
- You check your grammar and punctuation.
- You read the message more than once.
This is what we all need to be doing. There is so much division within the breast cancer community. I feel it on a visceral level. I’m just as guilty as others in terms of not always reaching for consensus, for not looking for the common ground, for not giving the benefit of the doubt.
Think what we could do together if we did.