Humanising Language Teaching
Crying for Help- the No Blame Approach to Bullying
On page 67 the authors of this book outline the NO BLAME procedure with great clarity as a series of seven steps:
Step 1. Talk with the victim
When the facilitator finds out that bullying has happened, she starts by talking to the victim. During this conversation the listener encourages the victim to describe how he feels with reflective comments such as : " That must be very hard for you… So you have felt really upset."
The purpose is not to discover the factual evidence about this or other events; if the victim wants to include evidence in the account this is always reframed to establish the resulting distress. For example a comment like " they have all been ignoring me, nobody will talk to me " might be replied to with a response like " so you felt lonely and you were upset you had nobody to talk to."
It is important the victim understands and gives consent to the No Blame process. Sometimes there may be a fear that it could lead to further victimisation but when the non-punitive aspect is fully explained the victim usually feels safe, relieved that something is being done. He may want the perpetrators to understand how much distress has been caused. Talking to some one else who has been through the experience may give further reassurance.
The facilitator ends the meeting by:
a) checking that nothing confidential has been said that should not disclosed in the group.
b) asking the victim to state the names of those involved in the bullying, some colluders or observers and some friends who will make up the group.
c) inviting the victim to produce a piece of writing and or a picture which illustrates his unhappiness.
d) offering the victim an opportunity to talk again at any time during the procedure if things are not going well.
Step 2. Arrange to meet the people involved
The facilitator arranges to meet with the group of pupils who have been involved and suggested by the victim. A group of six to eight young people works well. The group should have a balance of people who have caused the distress and colluders on the one hand and helpful and reliable young people on the other.
Step 3 Explain the problem
The facilitator starts by telling the group that she has a problem- she is worried about "John" who is having a very hard time at the moment. She tells them the story of the victim's unhappiness and uses the piece of writing or drawing to emphasise his distress. At no time does she discuss the details of the incidents or attribute blame to the group.
Step 4. Share responsibility
When the account is finished the listeners may look downcast or uncomfortable and be uncertain about the purpose of the meeting. Some may be anxious about possible punishment. The facilitator then states that:
a) no-one is in trouble or going to be punished
Step 5. Ask the group members for their ideas
Group members are usually genuinely moved by the account of John's distress and relieved that they are not in trouble. No one has been pushed into a defensive corner by accusations and the power in the group has shifted from the "bully leader" to the group as a whole, whose members withdraw consent for the behaviour to continue. Each member of the group is then asked to suggest ways in which the victim could be helped to feel happier.
These ideas are stated in the "I" language of intention. " I will walk to school with him." " I will ask him to sit with me at dinner". The ideas are proposed and owned by the group members and not suggested or imposed by the facilitator. She makes positive responses but she does not go on to extract a promise of improved behaviour.
Step 6. Leave it up to them
The facilitator ends the meeting by passing over responsibility to the group to solve the problem. No written record is made- it is left as a matter of trust. She thanks them, expresses confidence in a positive outcome and arranges to meet them again to see how things are going.
Step 7 Meet them again
About a week later the teacher discusses with each student, including the victim, how things are going. This allows the teacher to monitor the bullying and keeps the young people involved in the process.
These meetings are with one group member at a time so that each can give a statement
about his contribution without creating a competitive atmosphere. It does not matter
if everybody has not kept to his intention, as long as the bullying has stopped.
The entire process showing the seven steps, is available as a training video (Maines and
The above Rogerian way of dealing with bullying stands in contrast to the normal Northern European puritanical, legalistic way of coping. The normal way in England, at least, is to criminalise the bully and to deal with him by a mixture of punishments and threats. This way brings huge pain to all concerned and ignores the roots of the situation.
How is bullying dealt with in your culture? It may be that the No Blame procedure is
successful in England precisely because is stands in stark contrast to the normal
beating up and criminalisation of the bully. How is bullying dealt with in Greenland,
in China, in Nepal, in Chad and in your neck of the woods?