Veronica, a high school freshman from Ohio, recently DM’d us on Instagram to ask:
How do I get this girl to stop picking on me?
Here’s Veronica’s her story:
“There’s this girl (I’ll call her Abby) who I’ve been friends with since 7th grade. We’re on the same soccer team, and we have lots of the same friends. But last fall a couple weeks after we started high school, she changed and started being mean to me. She criticized every single thing I said and acted like she was irritated anytime I was around. Also, we’re in the same math class, and I really like math, so I always answer the teacher’s questions. Every time I raise my hand, she rolls her eyes, makes snide comments, and then picks on me about it later when we’re with our other friends. Lately, the other friends have even joined in: when Abby starts giving me a hard time, they all jump in and do it, too. I’ve told Abby several times she’s hurting my feelings, and I want her to stop picking on me all the time. All she says is, ‘I was just joking! Geez! Lighten up! Can’t you take a joke?’ There’s one more thing that makes this all really hard for me: I really can’t be mean to other people, even if they’re mean to me. So, when they are picking on me, I don’t really say anything to defend myself because I don’t want to be mean back. What do you guys think I should do? How do I get this girl to stop picking on me?”
Veronica, thank you so much for contacting us. We’re so sorry to hear you’re having difficulties with this girl, but we’re here to share ideas and help you come up with a plan. Here’s what some of the Theatre of Peace students wanted to tell you:
I had a very similar situation happen with a group of friends. When I asked a friend to stop picking on me, she just didn’t get it and wouldn’t stop. What I decided to do was put distance between us, but I did it really gradually so that it didn’t seem like I was being mean. So, for example, I decided to sit somewhere else at lunch one or two days a week; then over time, it got to the point where I wasn’t sitting with them at all. That really helped, and it was so gradual they barely noticed it was happening. Maybe you could try that, too.
Also, since you said that you really don’t want to be mean to anyone, even if they are mean to you, you sound like someone who a lot of people would really like to be friends with! If you take a look at your wider circles of friends and other people who you have classes with or play soccer with, I bet you’ll find lots of great people who you could hang out with. It’s possible that because you’ve been spending so much time with Abby and this friend group, you maybe haven’t had the chance to notice all the other nice kids and potential friends around you. But I bet they’re there; maybe spend some time getting to know those people better.
This is a situation I think lots of people can relate to. Sometimes people are so self-absorbed that they just seem not to care that they are hurting your feelings. All that matters is to them is they get to say what they want and be the center of attention, and nobody else matters at all. Maybe that’s why Abby won’t stop picking on you, even though you’ve asked her repeatedly to stop. You know, maybe she only cares about herself. People who only care about themselves aren’t the greatest friends.
As far as wanting to be nice and not wanting to be mean to her, it might help if you wrote out what you plan to say to her ahead of time – almost like a script of how you want the conversation to go. Then, practice what you plan to say, and remind yourself that what you’re saying isn’t mean. Remember how you felt when you practiced the lines. Then, when you have the actual conversation with her, remind yourself of how you felt when you practiced; put yourself back in that state of mind where you were being honest and not at all mean to her. It’s just a good way to reassure yourself that you’re treating her with respect so you don’t second-guess yourself while the conversation is happening.
You might not like my idea because you might think it’s mean, but I think you should cut her off. I mean, really, you already told her she’s making you feel bad, and you’ve asked her to stop several times. She hasn’t stopped, and it’s all still really hurting you. I think you say to her, “Look, I’ve asked you so many times to stop being rude to me, and you haven’t stopped, and I just don’t want to be your friend anymore. I’m sorry, but I don’t have any other choice.” Then, you’ll need to block her on social media, and stop talking to her.
I wonder if Abby might be jealous of you. Like with your math class, it sounds like you’re doing better than her, and so maybe she sees you as a threat. That might make her put on this mask of being passive-aggressive toward you. Being mean to you might be her way of covering up how she’s really feeling – jealous – and might also tear you down a little, which somehow makes her feel better. So maybe try to come up with some reasons for what could be making her treat you this way – reasons that have to do with her and not you. Then, it might not hurt quite so much.
I had a similar situation, too, and some of my friends, who were in the same friend group with the guy who was being extremely rude to me, didn’t understand why I was so bothered about how he was treating me. I eventually decided to stop talking to the kid who was bullying me, and I even decided to separate myself from that entire friend group because none of them had my back. I realized I needed to find friends who were more supportive of me, and maybe that’s what you need to do, too. I know it’s not easy, but if people are hurting you that much, you need to look out for yourself and spend time with people who respect you and your feelings.
Sometimes, the best answer to the question, “How do I get someone to stop picking on me?” is: distance yourself from them. Look out for yourself, and spend time with people who respect you and your feelings.
I’ve also had an experience recently with a friend who seemed to change. He used to be really nice and positive, but lately he’s become very focused on himself and all my communication with him has become very negative. I’m a very positive person, and I like to spend time with people who are positive and uplifting. I eventually got to the point where I had to tell him – politely, of course – that I didn’t think we should be friends anymore. And it was tough, but I’m so much happier now. I think if you spend time around people who are negative or treat their friends badly, it can rub off on you and make you really unhappy. So, sometimes, separating yourself from a friend who’s become self-centered and negative can really be the best decision to make.
I agree with a lot of what everyone has said so far. I think if you’ve tried everything and asked this girl to stop picking on you, and she still continues to bully you, it’s time to separate yourself from her. And if you’re connected on social media, and she starts bugging you there, you’re probably going to have her block her there, too, like Tony suggested. You’re not being mean by doing that; you’re looking out for yourself.
Veronica, I applaud you for not wanting to be mean to anyone, no matter how mean they are to you. One of the most important things to keep in mind when someone is treating us poorly is resisting the temptation to “crawl into the mud with them,” so to speak, and be mean back. Being mean back doesn’t solve anything and often makes the situation worse. It’s incredible that you’re not letting Abby’s behavior change who you are – way to go!
Talk to an Adult Who You Trust
As the adult on our team, I want to encourage you to talk to your parents or another adult who you trust (perhaps your soccer coach, math teacher, or school counselor.) It’s important for the adults in your life to know what’s happening. Bullying has been going on for centuries; the adults in your life have probably been in your shoes, and they might have some great ideas for you. They would probably love to help you, but they can only help if you tell them what’s happening. So, please tell them!
Appeal to the Other Friends in the Group
Now , for some problem-solving: so, you’ve already told Abby how you feel, asked her to stop, and she won’t stop treating you poorly. As a next step, I’d suggest approaching your other friends in this group, privately and one at a time; let them know how you feel about the way Abby is treating you, and ask them to try not to join in when she picks on you. Explain to them that when they join in, that validates her behavior and makes her want to do it more. They might not even realize they are escalating things. So, approach them kindly, let them know how you feel, and ask them to help you out.
Remember: She has NO Power to Change Who You Are
There’s one more thing I’d like to suggest to you: I want you to keep looking out for yourself. When someone is attacking us and trying to tear us down, it’s really important to do what I like to call “go into protection mode;” this is a way of looking out for yourself when this girl is around. Based on her behavior, you know she’s going to mistreat you; so distance yourself from her, as so many of the Theatre of Peace students have suggested. Putting distance between the two of you is an excellent way of protecting yourself. Also, do everything you can to convince yourself that the things she says to you just don’t matter … because they really don’t. Although they’re painful, her cruel words and behavior have no bearing on who you truly are and what you’re going to achieve in your life: she can’t take away your spirit, your academic performance, your true friends, or your future success. Keep reminding yourself that this is all temporary, that you will get past it, and that she has no power to change who you are.
Tell Us What You Decided to Do
Remember, we’re here to help anytime. Please DM us again or comment below, letting us know what you decided to do and how it worked. Or drop us a quick line just to let us know how you’re doing. Let’s keep the conversation going!
Disclaimer: We are neither medical nor mental health professionals. We are anti-bullying advocates here to offer support, share ideas and opinions, and be part of the solution. We believe the best way to get bullying to stop is to talk about it and share ideas about what works. We want to make sure that no one feels alone; these kinds of things happen to all of us. By coming together across the country and across the world, we can bring bullying to an end and create kinder, more respectful, accepting schools and communities where each individual is valued.
If you are experiencing bullying, please confide in an adult who you trust, such as a parent, extended family member, an adult at your school (such as a teacher, principal, or counselor), someone at your place of worship, a friend’s parent, or your neighborhood police. There are people in your life who want to help, but they can’t help unless you tell them there’s a problem. So, tell them.