Verbal bullying is speaking to a person or about a person in an unkind or hurtful way.

Verbal abuse or name-calling is just as, if not more harmful to a person’s self-confidence than physical bullying.

Name-calling can lead to other forms of bullying as well.

Words like ‘stupid,’ ‘ugly,’ ‘fat’ and ‘dumb’ may seem harmless, but words hurt. More than that, they have the power to make students feel unsafe to the point where they are no longer able to do well in school or have a normal life.

Students are teased and called names every day, for all kinds of reasons, including being different. Your classmate insults something a kid does by saying, “That’s so gay.” A girl in the lunchroom says, “You look fat in that skirt.” A boy stumbles and your friend calls him a retard. Even if the name- calling is followed by “Just kidding,” or “no offense,” the truth is, this name- calling is bullying. And it hurts.

You might stand there, in silence, thinking, “What can I say in response to that?” Or you laugh along, uncomfortably. Or, frustrated or angry, you walk away without saying anything, thinking later, “I should have said something.” Whether this happens to you or you hear it happen, remember these six steps to help you speak up. Important!!! In every situation, always first ask yourself “is it safe to speak up?” If not, just walk away.

Six Steps for Handling Verbal Bullying and Name-Calling

  1. Be Ready. You know another moment like this will happen, so prepare yourself for it. Promise yourself not to remain silent.
  2. Practice Ways To Respond That Do Not Involve Fighting. Practice different things you can say. Think of funny or witty comebacks.
  3. Respond to the person who is bullying. If you hear someone calling you or someone else names, respond. Some people find power in “owning” their identities. You might say something like “This is who I am, and I like it.” or “I like my body the way it is.” Avoid being pulled into a fight or name-calling yourself, though. That will only make the problem worse.
  4. Appeal to their sense of goodness. If the speaker is someone you have a relationship with — a sister, friend or classmate — call on their higher principles: “Ashley, I’ve always thought of you as a good person, so it shocks me when I hear you say something that sounds so mean and bullying.”
  5. Find an Ally/Be an Ally. When it seems scary or hard to speak up, find other people who will also speak up against verbal bullying. And don’t forget to return the favor: If you aren’t the first person who is brave enough to speak up to a bully, be the next person. Stay close to friends or adults and let them know what is happening. There truly is power in numbers.
  6. Don’t Give Up. Stay prepared, and keep speaking up against verbal bullying. Don’t risk silence. We all feel a little bad inside when we don’t speak up at a time when we know we should have.