An immense amount of materials have been developed over the years to address the problem of bullying. Most deal with the actions of the bully but not the victim of the bullying. But bullying is a double edged sword. It involves the bully or the giver and the receiver or the target of the bully. Both have social and emotional needs that are meet in the bullying cycle. Understanding this process should be the first step to addressing this problematic behavior. Take a look at our Bullying Prevention Map results and how it applies to our social and emotional intelligence model for successful living.


As you can see, our assessment measures the social and emotional components of bullying. Results like this can help you to construct more effective interventions that are tailored for the individuals involved in the behavior. Let’s take a closer look at how this all works.

Common Social & Emotional Intelligence Traits in the Bullying Process

Something strange happens to all of us when we are under stress. Stress can either bring out the best or the worst in us. Why do some people act in a positive way while others act in a negative way when dealing with a stressful situation? It is not something in our DNA that makes the difference. Rather, it is a learned behavior that makes all the difference. Yes, a learned behavior.

Here are three different ways people act under pressure. These are message sending or communication styles brought on by stress:

Aggression (aggressive communication style): this communication style violates, offends, or takes way another’s rights, thoughts and feelings. This is often the communication style of a bully.

Deference (deferring communication style): this communication style is to be passive, to yield, to give in to others and let them have their way, and to give your rights to others. This is often the communication style of the victim of bullying.

Assertion (assertive communication style): this communication style is a positive way of getting what you want without stepping on or violating the rights of others. This is a healthy communication style that allows one to stand up to bullying, and removes the need to be a bully altogether.


Assertion is a learned behavior. Assertive people can communicate openly and clearly. Assertion is an important skill to learn. Those who don’t learn assertion will bounce from deference (fear) to aggression (anger) while under stress and is a basic component of the bullying process. Both aggression and deference are problematic behaviors that are in contrast with assertion.

Aggression, which is anger, is used by bullies to trigger their actions. Aggression is an automatic response or reaction for the bully when stress is present. It is the flash point in the bullying process. The bully uses aggression as a way to bolster feelings of inadequacy.

Deference, which is fear, is used by bullies to find their next target. The bully can instantly sense deferring personalities by their lack of eye contact and their inability to stand up for themselves.

Assertion is a positive communication skill, while aggression and deference are negative communication skills that appear when we fail to be assertive. Assertion is the desired communication style for both the giver and the receiver in the bullying process.



Another personal trait critical to the bullying process is self-esteem. Self-esteem is a persons level of satisfaction with their current attitudes, beliefs, and general behavior. It is a pattern of judgments people constantly make about themselves. High self-esteem usually goes hand-in-hand with feelings of self-respect and self-worth. Low self-esteem often accompanies feelings of failure and self-hatred. A person’s level of self-esteem affects the way they think about and react to the outside world. This makes self-esteem a critical element in the bullying process for the giver as well as the receiver.

The giver uses the bullying process to bolster feelings of inadequacy, which is the result of low self-esteem. A proven way to reduce the rewards of bullying for givers is to raise their level of self-esteem. With higher levels of self-esteem, feelings of inadequacy disappear and so does the need to bolster those feelings of inadequacy through the bullying process.

The receiver is involved in the bullying process for different reasons than the giver. For the receiver, a lack of self-respect and self-worth is highly correlated to low levels of self-esteem and to a deferring personality. With an inability to adequately stand up for themselves, receivers are the perfect targets for bullies. Bullies choose their targets based upon a perception that they can force their targets to do something they do not want to do.



Empathy is the ability to sense, understand and accept another person’s thoughts, feelings and behaviors. An anonymous English author once said, “To empathize is to see with the eyes of another, to hear with the ears of another, and to feel the heart of another.” Have you ever heard the expression, try walking in someone else’s shoes? That’s empathy.

Empathy is a skill that allows you to understand others’ thoughts, feelings views and behaviors. Empathy makes you aware of the emotions and needs of others so that you can interact with them skillfully. For bullies, low levels of empathy make it easier display their aggressive behaviors and avoid the negative results of that behavior. Research on empathy has demonstrated the fact that hardened criminals have learned to lower their empathy so that they do not feel the negative effects of their behavior on others.


Self-control is the ability to handle personal feelings and emotions in difficult situations. This definition of self-control contains two key words: feelings and emotions. A feeling is an expression of sensitivity. An emotion is an intense feeling with physical as well as mental manifestations, or the state of or capacity of having feelings aroused to the point of awareness. Invariability, feelings and emotions become far more important in difficult life situations such as in the bullying process. Self-control for both the giver as well as the receiver is a critical skill when bullying happens. In order to avoid the bullying process both the giver and the receiver must be able to control their thoughts, feelings and actions.



Everyone, at one time or another during a lifetime, will fail at doing something. To some, this failure will be a crushing defeat. To others, this failure will be looked upon as just one more step towards success. Why do some people look at a failure as a complete defeat while others simply bounce back and try again? The answer is resiliency.

Resiliency is the ability to recover from failure and try again. Resiliency is a key component in the bullying process. Research has shown that persons involved in the bullying process, both givers and receivers, are more likely to repeat the bullying process once they have been involved in it. Receivers are also much more likely to become givers after they have been involved in the bullying process.

Resilient people recover from bad situations like bullying and bounce back to become successful at ending their participation in the bullying cycle.

Conflict Resolution

When you think of the word conflict, what comes to mind? You probably think of problems that are controversial or disagreements between people. This is because most of the time conflict is associated with negative things. While it is true that conflict is an inevitable part of life it is not always negative. Conflict exists because people don’t always get along or agree. It is a normal and common part of life. This makes conflict resolution, or the ability to resolve conflicts effectively, a crucial skill for everyone to have.


What exactly is conflict resolution? Conflict resolution is the ability of two or more parties to find an appropriate solution to a disagreement. It involves communicating effectively, negotiating, and resolving a problem in the face of a dispute.

Everyone experiences conflict and has a choice about whether or not to resolve it effectively. When conflict is resolved effectively, it leads to many benefits, such as accomplishing goals and strengthening relationships. But conflict can also be damaging. If handled ineffectively, conflict can quickly turn into personal dislike and even lead to a breakdown of relationships. Learning effective conflict resolution is a life skill that plays a large part in personal responsibility and the bullying process. Conflict resolution requires that you assert yourself and your ideas while respecting the rights of others. It also requires that you build relationships, negotiate to solve problems, and find solutions.

Conflict resolution is an important skill to learn to avoid the bullying process. Most givers are looking for a cause to justify their aggression and they are not prepared to deal with a receiver who possess conflict resolution skills of logic and reason.

Change Orientation (Comfort)


This final aspect of Bullying Prevention deals with the ability of individuals to adapt to change. This is an indication of satisfaction or comfort and the magnitude of change perceived as desirable for developing personal and life effectiveness. Change orientation includes the degree to which a person is motivated and ready for change. Change orientation is a reflection of satisfaction or dissatisfaction with current emotional skills and abilities. An ability to change oneself is a crucial skill for any personal improvement to happen.

We hope you enjoyed learning about Conover’s approach to Bullying Prevention. If you’d like to view the free trail of our Bullying Prevention program click the link below.