Stopping bullies everyone’s responsibility

People either want to beat bullies up or watch someone else do it.

But bullies don’t usually need a whooping before they see the light. You can often knock sense into their heads without skinning your knuckles.

Tim Renshaw is right in his Feb. 26 Daily Reporter column (“Don’t let bullies get away with it,” A6) when he says a store worker encouraged bullying by letting a pushy hothead move to the front of the line at the pharmacy counter.

So let’s start with that situation and ask, how could the store more effectively handle such a situation? The following tips have worked for me in all kinds of cases.

Here are a few things the clerk could have said regarding the pushy woman:

“This counter is open for customers who respect the people around them. Sir, please step up here and tell me how can I help you.”

“Ma’am, you’re bothering our customers. I’m not going to take care of your order until you show the respect everyone else here is showing each other.”

“Is this woman bothering anyone besides me and the gentleman over there?”

Each of these statements can bring a quick and favorable response. A feel for the situation will help determine which type to use.

One thing’s for sure — customers will have a strong tendency to patronize the store that preserves the dignity they deserve when they’re spending their money there.

Customers can set both the bully and the clerk straight: “Ma’am, I did not come here to listen to your disrespect. I’d like to think I can come back here and spend my money without having to put up with your rudeness to this store’s customers.”

You could also say, “Is anyone besides me appalled by this woman’s rudeness?”

These statements can permanently reform the bully.

When I was a teacher, a big boxing champion had the habit of running through the high school hallway and making students get out of the way or be run over.

The first time I saw him doing this, I made him stop.

He was three times bigger than I.

I said, “You can’t run through the school like this. You’re going to knock people down and hurt them.”

He looked down at me and said, “I’m going to be a senior next year, and nobody’s going to tell me what to do then.”

He went on to class, but another teacher sent him back to me.

I said, “You’re bigger than everybody else. They can’t do a thing about it when you make them get out of the way. I don’t think it’s too much to ask you to walk.”

That was the last day he ran through the halls. He agreed he had been childish, and he was glad I appreciated his size and strength.

Neighborhood vandals are a kind of bully who often end up in jail. When I lived in Ft. Wayne, two of them were busting bottles in broad daylight on a neighbor’s driveway in front of my home. It was an ugly scene.

I stepped out my front door and walked toward them. “Hey, you guys!”

They started down the alley, away from me.

“Hey, wait, wait!” I said.

They turned around. I told them I was going to go back in the house and get a paper grocery bag so they could pick up all that glass.

I returned with the bag, and they carefully picked all the glass up. I helped. Then I thanked them, and we went our separate ways.

This occurred in a neighborhood most people would consider too dangerous to live in, yet I have witnessed the same kind of cooperation in Indianapolis and anywhere else I happened to be walking or working.

Almost everyone takes a turn at being a bully. It happens in the workplace, at special events and at home.

Bullying is hardly the worst behavioral problem schools deal with. The bigger problem is the general rudeness that people of any age exhibit during any given school week.

Max T. Russell is owner of Max and Max Communications and formerly taught Spanish in Southern Hancock schools. You can contact him via his website,