2 Ways Bullies Search for and Groom Potential Targets

When bullies search for targets to bully and think they’ve spotted a potential, they will groom the potential target to test the waters and see if the person is an easy target. They groom you before the actual bullying starts.

The grooming techniques may occur only once or numerous times. So, how do bullies groom targets? They do it by deliberately using subtle behaviors to see how the person reacts. They will then cunningly and ever-so-carefully observe every word the target says and everything he/she does to assess whether they’re the right person with whom to toy with and establish a bullying dynamic.

Bullies prefer those who have low self-esteem and who are afraid of conflict because it is those people who have difficulty asserting themselves and standing up to bullying behavior.

Portrait of young Asian man making telescope gesture with his hands, shocked surprised gesture, looking far away concept

When bullies groom a potential target, their behavior toward the person can be either subtle and confusing or direct and obvious. But however the behavior presents itself, the bully has only one goal- to closely observe how the PT (potential target) reacts.

When bullies decide whether the PT is the right person to target for bullying and abuse, they use these criteria:

1. How the PT responds to their behavior.

2. Whether they respond confidently or uncomfortably.

3. Whether the PT sends back a clear message that they’re not intimidated nor confused and that they can take care of themselves.

For example, a kid is new at the school. A few classmates shove him or subtly insult him, then watch and assess him closely to see what his reaction will be. If the PT catches the attack and calls it out confidently, letting the bullies know that he’s onto them and that he won’t hesitate to defend himself, it’s likely that the bullies will leave him alone and go search for another target.

But if the PT gets confused or intimidated, chances are likely that the bullies will select him to bully because they’ll get the message that he’s afraid of them. Also, if the PT ignores the subtle digs and says nothing, the bullies may assume that he’s afraid and will also select him as a target. If the subtle behavior goes over the PT’s head, the bullies will also continue to bully him because they’ll sense the PT didn’t understand what they were saying or doing to him.

Bullies are like sharks who search for any sign of prey and the way sharks spot prey is to smell blood in the water. Your confusion, fear, self-guilt, and timidity are to bullies as blood is to sharks, signaling that you’re ripe for abuse.

So how exactly do bullies groom you if they see you as a potential?

1. They use dismissive, coercive, or aggressive behavior against them without warning. This is designed to throw you off-balance make you feel threatened. What the bullies want is for you to be stunned into silence or to acquiesce. And if they’re successful in throwing you off and intimidating you, their assessment of you will be that it’s safe to undermine your confidence, intelligence, abilities, and reputation.

2. They turn hot and cold toward you. They will be warm and friendly to you one day, then vicious and hostile towards you the next. You’ll never know when you’ll get the friendly version of these people or the hostile and hateful version.

You won’t know what to expect from these people and you’ll feel as if you must tip toe around them. They’ll have you walking on eggshells and waiting for the other shoe to drop.

Again, this is well-thought out in advance, and it’s designed to bewilder and confuse you. They want you to be stunned and they want you to be flabbergasted!

And once you’re off-balance and unsure of yourself, the bullies gain the upper hand. But if you respond angrily then the bullies will come back and escalate the altercation and use your angry response to paint you as the villain. That’s why you should avoid responding in anger.

Understand that the surprise attack is put together in such a way that you don’t take the initiative because the bullies want you to think that you’re somehow at fault. They want to make you feel responsible for their atrocious behavior. You’re not. So, don’t accept it because they’ll only use this as an opportunity to take away your personal power and wrest complete control over you.

This is a very manipulative trick they’re pulling on you to back you into a psychological corner. It’s to make you feel powerless and that you don’t have any other choice but to take their crap. And the more powerless you feel, the better the bullies feel because they want to establish that bully/target relationship with you, where you accept their bullying and abuse. These bullies want you to accept it to such an extent that you think you deserve it.

You don’t deserve it. No one deserves to be bullied and you have every right to stand up to them if they get out of line with you. And knowing this information is your first step in having the confidence to stand up to these people.

If you ever find that you’re being groomed and assessed for bullying, now is the time to assert your right to be safe and not to be attacked. Don’t wait. Now is the time to stand up to them because, if you wait, the bullies will quickly become comfortable with violating you and by then, it will be much harder to stand up to them.

With knowledge comes empowerment!

The 15 Stages of School Bullying

Bullying is a process.

1. Bullies search for a target.

2. Bullies groom the potential target

3. A target is selected.

4. Bullies signal to bystanders that the target is ripe for bullying.

5. Bystanders are encouraged to join in the torment and unite with the bullies against the selected target.

6. Bystanders then become bullies themselves.

7. The target is involved in many physical fights in trying to defend themselves and gets labeled by teachers and staff as the troublemaker.

8. Bullies and bystanders go home and tell their parents and family members what a terrible person the target is.

9. The parents and family members of the bullies and bystanders go to work or the supermarket and relay the stories about the target to coworkers and friends- stories they were told by their children, grandchildren, younger siblings or cousins, nieces or nephews that this target is a terrible person.

10. The coworkers, friends, and extended family members then pass what they’re told to their families and word of the target’s perceived evilness or craziness spreads throughout the entire community.

11. The target’s reputation is destroyed.

12. The target’s opportunities for love, friendship, jobs, careers, etc. are either limited or lost.

13. The target either commits suicide or leaves town to pursue a better life.

14. The target who relocates finally gets a fresh start and reinvents himself.

15. The target rebuilds his/her life, begins to flourish, and creates a better life for themselves.

With knowledge comes empowerment!