The Sinister Adult Behaviour of Friendship Bullying.

Today I am writing about behaviour that is commonly assumed to only exist in childhood but continues to exist into adulthood.

I am referring to what is termed Friendship Bullying.

What Is Friendship Bullying?

It is defined as:

• Not allowing someone to join a group

• Leaving someone out of a group

• Refusing to share friends

• Refusing to work with a workmate

• Refusing to sit next to someone

• Eye rolling

• Laughing at someone

• Sarcasm

It is often accompanied by the equally toxic Manipulating Behaviours

What are Manipulating Behaviours?

These are defined as:

• Giving someone the silent treatment

• Forcing a friend/fellow group member to pick sides

• Trying to stop people from being friends with the target person

• Relaying gossip/rumours about the target person to others.

• Informing the target of the gossip with the intention to hurt them.

What Does Friendship Bullying Look Like in Reality?

A classic example is a small community. Someone new moves into the community and the dominant person in the community doesn’t like them.

The dominant person then excludes that person from being part of the group within the community.

The dominant person and those who support them, spread lies as gossip about the excluded person.

The dominant person makes it clear, often without explicitly saying it, but implying it with their stories, that those in the group must not be friends with the excluded person. The consequence is that people are frightened to speak or in any way show friendliness towards the excluded person. They are frightened they will be excluded too if they don’t do as the dominant person wants.

Others within the group may hear the lies told as gossip and portrayed as “truth” and judge the excluded person as not worth knowing.

The excluded person is mocked, laughed at when things go wrong for them, denied the normal support of a community for each other.

The group don’t talk to the excluded person.

Members of the group may decide to tell the excluded person the lies about them to inflict further pain on them.

Horrifying Isn’t It? You Think It Doesn’t Happen In Your Community?

This type of behaviour is extremely toxic.

The group become the “in” group who set out to exclude this person as being a member of the “out” group. This deliberate isolation is cruel, unjust and extremely toxic. The excluded person is often someone who has done nothing wrong, just as the bullied child in the playground has done nothing wrong.
It is not acceptable to treat another person like that. We humans are social and excluding someone from the group is abusive and unsafe for the victim of this abuse.

Sadly, over the course of my life I have seen this happen time and again. Like most people I have occasionally been the victim of this behaviour.

That is the horror of it. Most people have been abused this way. Sadly most people have also been caught up in this toxicity and unwittingly perpetuated the abuse.

Do You Do This?

In reality, you probably do. So much of this behaviour is unwitting. Unless you pay careful attention to what you are doing it is easy to slip into the fitting in behaviour we all use to be part of a group.

One of the most obvious toxic groups is where racist attitudes consign a person to the “out” group.

The dominant person in a group is often so skilled at manipulation that you can be manipulated without realising it.

Not all groups are like this. I am a member of several friend groups of affirming, all inclusive, people. But I also see around me groups that are toxic and exclude others. I don’t belong to those groups. I learned a long time ago to spot them and avoid them.

You Are A Member Of A Toxic Group. What Do You Do?

Sometimes you may be aware you are a member of a toxic group and remain in the group. Maybe you remain because you like the people in the group and try to avoid the toxic behaviour.

Maybe you remain in the group because you are frightened of speaking out and being excluded by the group, becoming a member of an “out” group.

Maybe you feel these are your only friends and if you are cast out of the group you will be without friends.

Maybe you have learned to fear the consequences of speaking out, especially if you rely on the group for emotional support.

It is highly likely that things that happened to you in childhood make it hard for you to resist these toxic groups. Maybe you really would like to get out of such a group but past traumas are making it hard for you to take that step.

Can I Help?

If you would like to talk to me about how I can help you with finding the friends that feed your soul or what to do if you are being bullied, please contact me on 0409396608 or

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