Have you ever bullied a bully?

Bullying - not with us ?!

Three bullies talk about their experiences as perpetrators

How do bullying perpetrators feel and how do they see their own behavior? In this transcript of an American radio show, three different bullies have their own say and comment on their bullying behavior.

On the radio show Talk of the Nation, which reaches 3.4 million listeners in the US, the award-winning radio journalist Neil Conan speaks with his guests and callers about the topic of bullying. Also in the studio is Ms. Wiseman, a book author who also has her say.

The reason for this broadcast was an incident in Georgia: A high school student with Asperger's Syndrome hanged himself because he was bullied. The student's parents are now suing the school for believing that more effort on the part of the school could have prevented it. Neil Conan speaks directly to the (former) perpetrators to understand why they bully, how they do it and, if they have changed, how it happened.


Mary: I am a bully.

Conan: Who did you bullied?

Mary: You are using the past. I used the present. I am a bully.

Conan: So who are they bullying?

Mary: Anyone weaker than me. Just like I just explained to you that you used the past instead of the present. This is a form of bullying and I do it all the time. And it makes me feel powerful. It makes me feel better than I - as I know - I am. It makes me feel like I'm in control even though I'm none of it.

Conan: Mary, I have to say that I was bullied as a kid. I can take it from you. That wasn't bullying, from my point of view.

Mary: Do you indicate?

Conan: No, no, no, I wanted to say ...

Mary: Oh yes you do. Of course you do. Yes Yes Yes. Yes you do. And if they do: "I can take it from you, Mary." What are you bragging about?

Conan: Well, go ahead.

Mary: I'm not happy about being a bully and having you say, "I can take this from you, Mary," that is not the right way to deal with a bully.

Ms. Wiseman: Well, if I could say something about it: What is particularly important to me is that you have to treat people with dignity, that you have to recognize their worth. [...] And that's what bullying does: It takes people's voices away. And to me it sounds like you also believe [...] that other people have the right to speak their minds. You have the right to your own opinion. Is that right or am I getting it wrong?

Mary: I don't think that has anything to do with how and why I or other people bully. What you are saying is nothing new. Of course we would say "Oh yes, I believe that others should be treated with respect"That doesn't mean that we act like that in reality. I'm a bully, not because I don't believe that other people should be treated with dignity. Believe it or not is irrelevant. What is relevant is the fact." that I treat people badly.

Conan: Are you in control ...

Mary: And I treat people badly because I feel bad about myself. That's why bullies, from childhood on, just like I was a bully as a kid - I bullied teachers. I bullied a third grade teacher until she left school and I thought it was great. [...] Bullies understand everything you are saying and are unable to control the fact that they are going to be bullied.

Conan: I do not understand - so the fact that can not control. Have you tried to change?

Mary: Yes I have. I happen to be a psychologist, which is a great field for me because it's where people look up to me and I don't have to feel inferior. But the fact is, outside of work, I'm a bully. I bully people who are weaker than me. [...] I don't want to be a bully. I would love to grow out of it at some point, or be able to control it, but up to this point in my life I am not able to do this and I am bullying.


I was a bully in junior high school, not very long. In eighth grade, I went to see a young lady who was my best friend with the Girl Scouts. We were girl scouts together for about six years. And one day I just went up to her and knocked the glasses off her face for absolutely no reason and broke her glasses. I got in a lot of trouble.

I was taken to the director's office and my parents were contacted and it was pretty horrible. And I didn't realize until a few years ago that I was being bullied at the same time that I was being bullied. I was bullied by another girl for about a year, she did things like running after me and kicking my heels.

I mean that sounds harmless compared to some of the things we see on the news today, but she just bothered me terribly. I felt miserable. And what I now notice is that no one has ever asked me. When I walked into the director's office, they didn't ask me, does anyone do something similar to you?


When I was in junior high school, I was bullied. I was extremely unpopular. I was - I guess what would be called a nerd today, but that was in the 80s so we didn't have a name for it. But I was really unpopular and I was bullied pretty hard by a lot of people.

Around the ninth grade, my sense of humor, the way I talked and all sorts of things changed in such a way that I opened up to the others. And I got a little popular myself and it was almost immediately that I started bullying myself. I endured this agony myself for years and immediately started finding people to make fun of - as soon as I found myself in this more popular clique - and made them feel bad.

When I called here, the screener asked me if I ever apologized for it. And I can still see it very clearly. It was probably in the tenth or eleventh grade when I was just getting used to not being popular, but certainly no longer in the same situation as I was in junior high school. I felt so bad about that one girl. She was a little overweight and in my English class. And I remember making fun of her for so long that she started crying in class.

And I remember feeling at the time, I don't know whether I was powerful or just so satisfied with myself. And then, when I look back on it, how horrible it was. I've dealt with it myself for three years. And the moment I felt like I had power over someone else, I seized it and used it. [...]

She was actually a very nice person. She accepted my apology. And I've seen her again at several class reunions since then and we got on well with each other. I don't know if it was anywhere near as big a deal for her as it was for me. I mean she was crying and I apologized.

I said, "You know, I don't know why I treated you this way. I was always nice, you were always nice to me. I was always nice to you. And something just got over me and I gave in to the influence of the clique and done things I shouldn't have done. And made me feel really bad about it. " So ...

Ms. Wiseman: I think it's pretty likely that it meant a lot to her. And I also think that it is never too late to go back and admit to yourself and others that you did something that hurt someone else and that this can change you as people fundamentally.


npr: Former Bullies Share What Motivated Behavior, Broadcast on March 23, 2010, audio and transcription of the broadcast: http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=125065190;

Translation of the transcription: Sebastian Stolte

Work orders:

  1. Read the excerpts from the interview with the three bullying perpetrators carefully.
  2. Hold on in note form for everyone when, how and whom bullied them.
  3. How do the three bullies themselves rate their (bullying) behavior?
  4. How do the three bullies differ from each other?