Have you ever felt left out? Wanting to be included in something but knowing you weren’t invited to join or participate can make you feel excluded. Exclusion can easily be seen as bullying if the intent is to actually keep someone out of a group or an activity. It is important to remember, exclusion may or may not be intentional. In some cases, we may feel excluded because of a simple misunderstanding. But sometimes it is an intentional act meant to hurt you and push you out of a group.

When feeling excluded from an activity, we should ask ourselves a few questions to determine if it may be unintentional before deciding we are being bullied. ‘Does this group know I would like to be included in the activity?’ ‘How have I let them know I want to be a part of what they are doing?’ ‘Are they aware that I am here and hope to be involved?’ ‘Do they know how I can be involved in their activity?’

When those around us are unaware of our intentions to be included, it can seem like they are purposefully excluding us. One way to grow in our understanding of unintentional exclusions is to realize that our actions and inactions can have consequences that hurt others. We need to become intentional in how we notice and treat those around us. The next time you feel you are being excluded, look around and see if anyone else may be feeling the same and purposefully include them in what you are doing.

However, there are times we will discover that our exclusion is intentional. Purposefully excluding someone can be obvious, seen in actions like ignoring someone, or turning your nose up as you walk past them. Or it could be subtle, like spreading rumors about a person so that she is steadily rejected by others.

Girls tend to use social exclusion to bully others more than their counter part. It seems to stem from their own fear of rejection from others. They may see you as a threat to their own status in a group. Boys, however, also take part in intentionally excluding people. How do we deal with and put an end to this silent bullying tactic?

I believe the answer lies within ourselves. Exclusion is meant to hurt us, to tear us down and keep us from being a part of something. Our response is what fuels the bullying to continue. Before we respond, we have to be aware of the intention of our exclusion. If we believe the exclusion to be purposeful, find a trusted person to talk with about the situation. We can’t change another person’s behavior, but you can control your own response. If you find yourself continually left out and no one to confide in, try seeking out new ways to get involved with new friends that encourage you. This is not an easy or quick process. It can take time to find a group to fit into. But it is always worth the time to seek healthy and encouraging friendships.

Our response can give the bully power or take it away. If we take the hurt this causes and refocus it to build our strengths in understanding the disappointments, we retain our power in the situation and take away the control of the bully. If you do confirm bullying in the form of exclusion, find encouragement and confidence in who you are and what you can do rather than focusing on what is being withheld by bullies.

We begin to overcome exclusion by including others, by taking the focus off what someone is doing to you and considering how you are treating someone else. This is where we find who we really are, where we define our character, when we focus on how we treat others rather than how others treat us.