Growing up, you likely learned to “just walk away” if a bully taunted you with jabs about your appearance, habits, or circumstances (bullies can glomb onto anything, really). But the truth is, that approach rarely ever works—not then and not now. As communications expert and professor Jaime Hamilton explained in a recent TikTok, using a neutral message is the best way to combat someone who’s antagonizing us, because “bullies have power when we say they have power… the second we challenge the bully, we say that they are powerful.”

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♬ original sound – Professor Hamilton

A neutral message would be a single word like “Nope!” or “Pass!” It is the perfect way to respond without giving them any power because it simply rejects the message but in a simple and non-aggressive way.

Professor Hamilton also provides a great explanation of how the conversation with the bully should go. “I want you to say this. I want you to look them straight in the eye and say, ‘Nope!’ Hold your eye contact for two seconds and then move on with your life. If they come back at you with, ‘Yes, you are,’ then just ignore it. Do it every day until it stops.” Role-playing this interaction with your child will help them build the confidence they need to take on the bully the next time the need arises.

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♬ Last Hope – Steve Ralph

“All it takes is one step into the direction of the bully, and they’ll go ‘hmmmm’… It’s not domineering, nor is it submissive. It is simply a neutral message that does not carry power except to the person who is saying it.”

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