My latest baby: a handy guide for anyone who wants to sell crafts online.

The last 3 months has been spent writing, designing, and twiddling with my newest book idea. The result? 4 STEPS TO SOCIAL MEDIA MARKETING FOR CRAFTERS. I have to write it in capital letters to make it stand out. Let me know if that gets annoying.

Take a little look for yourself if you please:

4stepstosakinafrontfinalBack cover of 4 STEPS TO SOCIAL MEDIA MARKETING FOR CRAFTERS

Cover courtesy of the talented  Monique Snyman, of Muti-Nation fame.

The writing

Once I’d planned the structure, the words just tripped out of my fingers. Because I’ve sold – and still sell – crafting products online myself, it was easy to remember the things I thought were most important when I did them.

I listened to what other people said about using social media for marketing. One woman said Facebook promotions had cost her a huge and unexpected amount of money. In response to that, I included step-by-step details with screenshots, and throughout that section of the book I urge readers to check and double check dates and money and to be sure they are happy with what they’ve chosen. Experience has taught me to stop and look and check, and I wanted to share all the things I’ve learned in a really useful way.

I figured my audience might be used to step-by-step project books, so thought the best way forward would be to produce a print book with an ebook option and go from there.

The design

Now, I’m no designer, that’s for sure. I have a more ‘splattergun’ approach to creativity. So I’m extremely proud of the results of my understated design!

Inside, it’s laid out mainly in two columns with plenty of white space and few distractions, other than the odd callout box. This is to make it easier to read. The text line distance is more or less what is known as the Golden Ratio for type.



You know how sometimes you read a book and you get to the end of a line and accidentally re-read the same line? Apparently, that happens when the gap between the lines (the line distance) is too small for the length of the line. The Golden Ratio sorts that right out.

The callout boxes are to emphasise important points to remember, and the splash motif (with occasional lovely multicoloured-but-muted giant splashboxes) is because my creativity is wedged firmly in the AK47 PAINTBALL ARENA. Muted, tasteful, and unobtrusive is not normally my style!

Think I did okay?

The publishing

Self-publishing has to be one of the most self-satisfying things a writer can do. Whether you do it through a local press and buy 150 copies to sell, or you take on the contracts of an online monster like CreateSpace (Amazon, of course), taking a project from idea through writing and design, through to seeing and holding a print proof …

I’m proud and pleased and frankly, glad it’s over. I’ve never worked so hard outside my comfort zone.

Except that it’s not over. See, this is a book about marketing. So I better take my own advice and go tell people about it!

Pre-order the ebook right now, or wait for 1st November 2016 to get your copy of the paperback.


Posted in Books and Writing, Life | Tagged , , , , , , , ,

Renationalise the NHS! Here’s why:

Alston Hospital campaigners pictured before the start of the Success Regime Health meeting,

Alston Hospital campaigners pictured before the start of the Success Regime Health meeting,

The privatisation of the NHS has already happened – more or less since the introduction of market forces 2001-07. But it is a process, not an event. So it’s taking time for the public to realise, and meanwhile, they may be missing an opportunity to take it back.

But the renationalisation of the NHS will be a long, arduous process, even with an immense budget, as it will be fought through the courts as each private health provider bellyflops on the beach to the bitter end. And it’s a long way from happening. Mrs May is determined to take the ‘public’ out of public health care, and Labour isn’t paying attention.

So step by step, the privatisation strategy continues, bringing the NHS to its knees reducing budgets as if the world is running out of money, and replacing it with ‘fair’ tender contracts.

The Success Regime

One of the new arms of the strategy is the overarching governance, The Success Regime. The very use of the word ‘regime’, beautifully teamed with ‘success’ makes the phrase a perfect metaphor for ‘corporate fascism’. It has a cheerfully threatening tone. The language around all the documentation is scary, and it appears to be some kind of government takeover since each organisation that administrates it is a public body that reports to the Department of Health.

One of the first three ‘challenged local health economies selected to enter the Success Regime’ (see how creepy it is?! Sounds like the Hunger Games!) is North Cumbria. Now, Cumbria has its problems. But this new governance gives them ever more KPIs with patient targets of better-funded institutions, coupled with the stranglehold of endlessly rearranged budgets and the constant threat of collapse (to be replaced with private health care, of course). Not to mention restructures, where fewer staff work larger loads for the same money as before. Frozen wages in some cases. (Article is from 2013).

The Chair for the Success Regime, Sir Neil McKay, seems a very charming chap. He spoke to a small demonstration outside one of the consultation meetings, and reassured them their voices would be listened to. I heard somewhere he is being paid what I’d call an exorbitant amount of money to do the job, so I daresay he can afford to be nice to the people who are losing the beds at Alston Moor Cottage Hospital.

(At least Cumbria isn’t in the same situation as Devon, where it happens the ‘healthcare consultation company’, Carnall Farrar, ‘selected to provide consultancy support following a competitive tender’ is the baby of Dame Ruth Carnall, the appointed chair of the Success Regime (that followed as a result of Carnall Farrar’s consultancy, presumably). Nice).

So public healthcare as we think of it is on its way out in Cumbria, a long, painful, drawn-out death, not a quick one.

What will happen to our health care system?

The effect of a fully privatised American-style health care system on the British public most likely can’t be quantified or measured ahead of time. Americans say they still have to pay hundreds of dollars even when they are insured, so if you’re too poor to pay, you’re in trouble. Imagine not going to the hospital with a broken bone because you know you won’t be able to afford the hundreds of pounds it will cost to set it. That limp and the aching bone will last you forever. It’s why Dickensian characters are deformed (some of ’em, anyway).

What will happen to us?

Capitalism is destined to destroy itself by destroying its workers unless it is mitigated with a strong welfare state and health service. By turning public services into businesses, the NHS privatisation removes the need to deal with everyone. They only deal with those who can afford to visit. Bed numbers reduce, money is made, and everyone calms down and falls into place. To give it context, that was more or less Enoch Powell’s suggestion in 1961, and even he knew that couldn’t be called a health service.

The result is that even though ‘the weakling, the old and the subnormal would be left to die’, the workers also become less healthy, more sick, less likely to live as long …

But there is, if you can imagine it, a potentially deeper cost.

A cost that is, in a sense, greater than the lives of the people living today.

It started out as an unforeseen beneficial effect of the National Health Service, and now the entity is being slowly turned over to full-on market forces, this benefit has been forgotten again.

The miscalculations

One of the things William Beveridge explained in his nation-changing report on the Welfare State (1942) was that the introduction of a National Health Service would make the workforce more well and fit. It would make the nation healthier.

He was wrong. Instead of being more well, the people seemed to become more ill.

What’s more, the whole thing got really expensive.

In 1946 when the NHS Bill went

to Parliament the estimate of the total net cost annually was £110 million. At the end of 1947 it was £179 million. At the beginning of 1949 a supplementary estimate of £79 million was added and the figures turned out to be £248 million. The actual cost in 1949/50 was £305 million. The following year it was £384 million. The government became alarmed. 


There was one major cost they hadn’t accounted for, and they’re forgetting it again.

First of all, they underestimated the need. They’d based their figures on the people already using health care. Hadn’t accounted for those who were too poor to even contemplate it until it became free.

However, the most unforeseen result of the NHS creation was an explosion of medical research. With all the people coming to the doctor for the first time ever, doctors did more research and shared new information. University hospitals were renowned. Common diseases were eradicated within ten years of the inception of the NHS and new ones discovered, all because of research. Research cost money and it was worth it, because it was cheaper in the long run to cure and mitigate diseases.

So the people weren’t more ill in 1952; they didn’t go to the doctor before the NHS was formed, and the doctor was likely not to know what they had anyway.

Medicine and public health care is doomed without renationalisation

The medical profession is the epitome of respectability, but it’s only made a difference since free universal healthcare was made available. The research, the breadth of patients, the new information and wider experiences benefited staff and in turn made things better for patients. The NHS was a glory across the whole world for a long time. But all that new knowledge only occurred because the organisation came about.

Scientific research sponsored by drugs companies are not a replacement for truly unbiased research. It’s impossible to truly trust the research. Even charities who produce good and useful work may have their biases due to the way they’re funded.

We’ve only had this opportunity provided by the existence of the NHS to improve medicine for 70 years, and now we’re losing it to privatisation.

In some ways, this is worse than people suffering now as a direct result of these austerity-based plans.

This is all future British research and breakthroughs relying on large charities, contaminated by private interests, or lost altogether.  Patients are just pawns in the money flow.

That’s why I would like proper, fully-funded renationalisation of the NHS. Research matters. Medicine needs to improve.

Check out Jeremy Corbyn’s plan for mental health care.


Posted in Life, Opinion | Tagged , , ,

Spiders. My love and hate for their fuzzy little backsides.

So … spiders.

Yesterday I found a spider ‘hugging’ a dead spider on the step leading up to my backdoor. I chased it away. No idea if it was eating or mourning it. I suspect foul play following a sexual liaison, but can’t confirm as my absence overnight precipitated the event.

This afternoon I accosted a smaller jumping spider, poised to make a drop into my cutlery draw. I foiled his attempt, shut the drawer, and bullied him into stepping onto a piece of kitchen towel. He made foolhardy leaps to escape, but was dumped outside, swinging from the bottom of the paper.

Tonight I opened the refrigerator for a midnight snack and discovered another small spider abseiling from the fridge ceiling. Swiftly removed with the same piece of kitchen towel and dumped in the aloe vera for the night.

We’ve had the best weather ever today. You’d think they’d prefer to be outside.

So, spiders.

My relationship with spiders

I always feared spiders as a kid. My mum is really funny about them, and used to leave them under various bowls and mugs for my dad to find and remove. Thing is, when you live on your own, you have three choices. Deal with them, ignore them, or turn it into a mental health issue worrying about them.

Some houses have lots; some hardly any, but even with one of those homes, the occasional spider pops up.

I moved into this house in 2009, and the first thing I discovered was a spider the size of Godzilla, in the bath. You could hear its feet as it ran around the bottom! It was so hairy, it made a rushing noise as it ran.

No-one was scheduled to visit until Wednesday, so I resolved to cope without a bath for three days. Luckily a couple of friends came to see me as a house warming surprise, and when I asked the lad if he could get the spider out, Janey jumped up and said “I’LL do it!” and two minutes later the bath was spider-free.

I got braver and less stupid, and my mum gave me a tall plastic dog chew jar that has since been known as the spider-catcher.

A boris, otherwise known as a common brown house spider

A boris, otherwise known as a common brown house spider

Spider-catching technique

  1. Gingerly place jar mouth over spider, leaving plenty of room if possible.
  2. Slide piece of rigid card across the mouth, taking care not to unhook arachnid legs or lose spider.
  3. Take to allocated dumping ground, whether different part of the house or outside the door.
  4. If spider is an annoying ‘sticky’ one that can easily stick to the card ‘roof’, throw the whole receptacle into allocated spot and shriek if necessary.
  5. Otherwise just tip spider out quite close to the ground.
  6. NOTE: If windy, just throw whole thing, or spider blows back into the house.

They still get me sometimes, though.

The spider who could control the electricity.

I spotted a spider on the ledge running up the stairs. It was so big, I ran to get my ruler so I could measure it before throwing it out. The perils social media put you in. I’d just made it to my desk when the lights went out and I realised the power had gone off.

I felt my way to the fuse box –  my house is pitch black at night as there’s no nearby streetlight – and knocked the electricity back on. Returned to the stairs to find spider had run nearly a metre down the stairs. I sprinted for the spider-catcher, but the lights went out again.

Back at the fuse box, I was now worried about where the magic spider was headed. I dashed back through and discovered it was only 12 inches from my handbag and coat. Instead of moving those items, I ran back to the kitchen for the spider-catcher. I was on my way back when the electricity went off again.

Long story short, I lost the spider, decided it was in my handbag, and dumped that outside the backdoor on the end of the ruler.

At 2am, I saw a big one in the bath, though I wasn’t convinced it was the same one. Didn’t have quite such an impressive girth, and I couldn’t face another spider incident in the same night. As I left the bathroom, my eyes fell on the missing monster, two stairs from my bedroom.

It’s moments like this, you realise you have to deal with something.

How I cope with spiders in my house

Spiders are little. They’re annoying and creepy, not that good at catching flies, and generally not too bright as far as I can tell.

I rescue them out of the bath and the sink, remove them from my bedroom, and warn them when I’m hoovering.

I used to tell them with a pointed finger ‘you can stay, but I don’t want to see you again’. Generally guaranteed they’d leave, and if they didn’t, I removed. Now I don’t even bother telling them most of the time.

I’ve watched two large ‘borises’ walk round the living room twice. One embraced the horse chestnut in the corner that was supposed to put them off!

I’ve shaken them out of my bed clothes, shoes, wellies, and socks.

I even found one dangling from my short-and-curlies one night as I got ready for bed!

They dangle unexpectedly from the kitchen beams, live behind the lavatory, in the aloe vera, and are occasionally good team mates for catching flies. I’ve twice bopped a bluebottle behind the aloe vera on the inside kitchen windowsill, only to hear frenzied buzzing but no reappearance of the fly. On inspection from the other side of the window: a small spider dragging the frantic fly towards it with admiral resolve.

If they make themselves a nuisance, they get thrown out into the weather, but I generally can’t be bothered any more.

My house is honestly not infested with spiders. This is over a period of 8 years, and the house was empty for years before that, so I’m pretty sure it was a haven for them all that time.

The trouble is, I don’t kill them on purpose, and I think word gets around spider world pretty quick when they find somewhere safeish to live.

Notwithstanding all the dearly departeds who have been accidentally despatched on the stairs, under the dog, in some cleaning chemical or soap, in terrifically hot water in the bath, on the cooking hob …

Not too bright, see?



Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Why your business website is pointless


Calling all business owners running local businesses.

Did you waste your money when you got your business website?

Does no-one visit it at all?

Is it hard to see the point of maintaining your website regularly?

Do you secretly believe website developers are just creative con artists?

When you’re in business you don’t want to waste time doing pointless exercises. You just want to know what the job is, and then get the job done. Then you can go back to doing what you really love doing, which is the reason you’re in business.

If you answered ‘yes’ to any of those questions above, the problem with your website is that it doesn’t have a job.

A business website without a job is like an expensive signpost lost in long grass.

No-one really sees it, no-one uses it, except for opening times and telephone numbers.

Lots of businesses only have a website ‘because they should’. They don’t see the value in their website because no-one uses it, so they don’t update it, and it acts like a digital version of a very expensive Yellow Pages ad. Which it is. And no-one uses it because … you get the picture.

There’s only one way to change this problem:

Give your website a job!

What do you want your website to do?

Do you know what the options are?

First of all: what do you offer?

Are you a shop with products to sell?

Are you a service, like an architect or designer?

Are you a bit of both?

Are you an organisation that exists to provide information?

Do you have a duty to the people who use your services to provide them with information about what you do?

Decide what you want your site to do,  because that’s your website’s job.

That’s what a web developer helps you develop: the website’s job.

But what if ….?

“I have a bricks-and-mortar shop, selling gifts in an English market town. I don’t want to do internet mail order. How is a website going to help me other than being a signpost to my business?”

If you want to stand out against all the other gift shops in town, you’ll need to show off your specialness on the Internet. Tomorrow’s customers use the Internet every day, for everything.

What if you featured some of your favourite products each month? Maybe you could tag them with the name of your town and make a big deal about local products.  The ‘local’ thing really does work with Google and friends, so visitors to the town can also find out about you.

“I’m a small shop, without much money, business isn’t doing too well, and I’m not sure I should spend the money on a frivolous website.”

What if ‘frivolous’ meant ‘opens up new opportunities’?

What if business needs to be done a different way to make it work? Is it worth doing? Showing off your products, and more importantly, your expertise (because it’s that which makes you unique), is what will help people notice you and choose to visit you. Showing it off means regular blog posts at the very least.

“I’m a busy building construction company, and get tons of business by word of mouth already. I don’t need a website.”

You’re probably right. If you’re busy enough and you don’t want to grow any more, ever, you may not need a website at all.

A website can be an expensive business. It might cost £100-£150 for the text, between £500-£750 for the design and development, and £350+ for ongoing analytics and tweaking.

That’s why you have to decide what you want it to do before you start, or you risk spending a lot of money doing everything in the wrong order.

If you use a web developer to help strategise from the start, after it’s set up you’ll only need to factor in low on-going costs for keeping it updated, like ordering ghostwritten blog posts (unless you want to write your own).

If business is slow these days, or if you want to communicate with your customers more easily, your website could be the key to your future.

As long as you decide what job you want it to do.

Posted in Digital marketing | Tagged , ,

Why websites need a content strategy

business needs to be organised

So I decided to seek out a few new clients.

I love the ones I have already, but I always want more of everything!

So I went looking.

Just like last time, I felt pretty fed up after an hour.

The freelance platform sites are filled with potential clients who don’t understand what they’re asking for, offering pitiful amounts of money for vast quantities of work and people are applying for them.

People whose profiles look incredibly professional.

And the instructions are often written in a style that brooks no argument.

So the guy who has already wasted his money on a ‘premium theme’ at WordPress now wants to pay £120 for 11 web pages of writing, 3-4 paragraphs each. He wants that, and now he’s spent the money on the theme, no-one – but no-one – is going to change his mind.

It’s laughable, and horrible.

Why would you buy a website design that uses a kind of horizontal structure requiring pages and pages of words when statistics show:

a) Long-form vertical web pages do the selling very well, but they have to be really long, and written in a very specific style. So 3-4 paragraphs wouldn’t do it.

b) Long pages split up into short screen-sized panels in a range between 2 lines to 2 paragraphs of impact text are also really effective, and cost a lot less because they take less time to write and amend. Usually.

Why would you spend $80-$140 on a website design that forces you to need more writing when you haven’t enough in your budget to pay a writer properly in the first place?

What do you expect to gain from 11 pages of solid writing?

What’s a content strategy?

A content strategy for a website is a map of paths you create for your readers to enable them to get from:

a) your landing page/front page, to

b) the buy-now button.

On these paths, you will have certain points where you give your visitor an opportunity to hit the buy-now button. Inline links, buttons, adverts, banners and so on.

Pictures don’t offer opportunities, though design is important. But the real secret is WORDS.

Words make opportunities, so you have to use the right ones.

The design creates a visual flow, but writing has a flow too, when it’s good.

Good web writing is writing that fulfils a job. It enables the job of the website.

What’s the website’s job?

If that site is a signpost to your bricks and mortar business, its jobs are still to make you look attractive to your customers and provide clear information about what you do.

If it’s a shop of some kind, the job of the site is to sell.

If your site provides information–maybe you’re a public service or a charity, its job is to promote your interests, increase your authority, and give your users something relevant to read or view.

If you supply advertising space, your site’s job is to entice potential customers with content they’ll want to read before they notice the ads.

So what goes into a content strategy?

Your ultimate challenge is to get visitors to commit to the action itself: HIT THAT BUTTON, BABY!

And if at first you don’t succeed … give them something else to look at and provide another opportunity a short time later. In words.

So when you work on a writing strategy for a website you have to:

a) start with a goal,

b) understand exactly what that end point will be, then

c) leave a trail of jelly bean crumbs to give your visitors a reason to either buy now or move on to the next point on the path across your site.

If they haven’t hit the buy-now button already, you give them something else to look for.

Either they scroll down, or you gift them a new page with an exciting title, but it’s a bit less challenging if they can just scroll to the next part.

Whatever happens, don’t let them escape!

If you understand why your visitors are there, it will be easier to figure out what to offer them.

The beautiful and useful products you sell are the potential solutions to their needs, whether you’re a joke shop or an interior designer.

You’ll also be closer to understanding what will make them stay longer.

Offer them something that’s important to them to make it less likely they will click away.

Survey your existing customers! See what they are looking for on your site. SurveyMonkey is easy to use, and there are Facebook Surveys for your pages.

If you don’t have enough customers and interested followers, make up some very specific imaginary customers, and figure out why they might visit your site.

If you don’t meet anyone’s needs, no-one will buy from you.

But you don’t have to meet everybody’s needs; just some will be fine.

You can see how important it is to do things in the right way.

And there are sooooo many people out there doing it the expensive ineffective way.

Working together is great because …

What I’ve found is this:

it’s far more satisfying for both client and writer, if the relationship is a collaborative one.

It’s like working in a very tiny knowledge economy. I help you if you help me do that.

Sure, I may not know your business as well as you do, but give me information (that you probably already have) and I’ll know enough very quickly.

Tell me your goals and I can help you figure out what your customers expect to see.

Then I can help you get the writing you need.

I write it, you check it, we talk about it, I make amends according to our agreements, you check it … and when it’s ready, it’s ready.

It’s a collaboration.

So, once again, I’m done with freelancer platforms (for this week, anyway).

I’d rather go, as a business, to another business, and make them an offer.

Last week I spent all my free time creating some collateral. Two very simple ‘micro-courses’ with tips to help viewers understand the benefits their business will get from using good web writing.

Here’s the first one for you to check out!

I thought I might offer them up to another organisation for some kind of ‘partnership marketing’, where they get some original content for their email list readers, and I get exposure to a few more potential clients.

Good plan, no?

It’s gotta beat trawling the freelance platforms.

Posted in Digital marketing, Opinion | Tagged , , , ,

How to beat the bullies: the ONLY solution you (and your kids) need

‘How to beat the bullies’ must be a well-asked search term on Google and friends. NSPCCThousands of kids are affected by bullying every year, and bullying situations can continue to crop up into adulthood.

And yet ‘How to beat the bullies’ has to be one of Google’s more lacklustre search efforts.

The first page of result throws up quite a few helpful-looking sites, such as this one:

ADDitude Magazine

ADDitude mag-1You’d expect kids with ADHD, ADD and other learning difficulties to experience more bullying than others, I guess. I have a little cousin who is disabled and autistic, and he and his family suffer a lot.

So you’d want an article written for their benefit to be useful to them, right?

Thing was, I felt dissatisfied with the article.

Three of the five suggestions were basically the same thing: be quick.

Say something smart, sarcastic, or funny. All staple survival kits for any kid at school who stands out.

It was so off-the-cuff and smartly written, expecting kids to come up with some great put-downs somehow. As if they wouldn’t have already tried if they were equipped with a fast-mouth.

I trained myself for years to be sarcastic. I’m not that good at it. I got the tone pretty good, okay? At 38, I still can’t, as an occasional victim, handle bullies coherently.

So not really useful advice. When you’re being bullied, your blood pressure rises, your heart pounds, and the body’s stress responses kick in.

It’s hard to think through that fog of adrenaline.

So what’s the real answer? What authentic list to help beat bullies can someone who isn’t a psychologist come up with?

My victim credentials

I don’t think I’m an obvious victim. I’m confident, out-going, and a fighter. But how the bullies have tried over the years.

I know you’re bully-fodder if you have social problems, hygiene and health problems, disability, or if you stand out from the flock in a way that is viewed by the majority as ‘weird’, ‘creepy’, ‘strange’, or ‘annoying’.

And if you already find a social environment a challenge, you may be less confident, witty, or able to adequately protect yourself.

When I was a kid I didn’t get the same levels of early socialisation as most other kids around me. No TV every other year, no nursery. No Sesame Street (my mum didn’t like it).

I’m grateful for her interventions now, of course (not sure what was wrong with Sesame Street to be honest), but at the time it gave people a weakness to pick on because I often didn’t come up with expected responses in class. And I never knew what was happening in the soaps.

That might sound utterly childish, but I actually had this happen to me at the age of 25, too, when a Production Manager for a TV company saw me laughing at an event from Big Brother recited by one of the staff. She said ‘Did you see the programme, Sakina?’ And when I shook my head, ‘so why are you laughing then?’

Which made me feel            this big.

But the staffer had just told the story of what happened. And I wasn’t quick enough to point that out.

I’ve been affected by bullying lots of times in my life – even accidentally been one too, and been the proverbial rescuer as well – but one thing I’ve noticed is I don’t have the same attitude towards the experience that a lot of people do.

I have school friends who were deeply affected by their bullying experiences at school. I shared some of those experiences with bad treatment from the same people, but I wasn’t affected the same.

What makes a bullying victim?

So then on around page 18 of the above Google search I found this document: a US Swimming webinar (random, I know!) advising stewards How to beat bullies.

In its definition of bullying, it included the effects.

USA 1-1 USA 2-1 USA 3-1

I realised one thing from this.

Whether or not someone is classed as being bullied has a lot to do with the effect it has on the victim.

If the victim doesn’t take time off school/work, talks back, has – and even appears to instigate – fights, or is viewed as more obnoxious than the bully, they are not classed as a victim.

That doesn’t mean the bullying isn’t happening.

It means the victim is attempting to solve the problem rather than be a victim. But unless you appear to be a victim, you don’t get the support you need.

Managers don’t support you: “It’s just a personality clash.”

Teachers don’t support you: “It’s six of one and half a dozen of the other.”

What’s the answer?

There is a strategy that can help you leave bullying behind forever.

Empower your bystanders

Avoiding a bullying situation just isn’t possible in the long term. If you know you’re prone to being bullied, you need a self-defence strategy.

The best one I’ve discovered, through years of trial-and-error, was this:

Involve the people around you.

As soon as you get other people involved on your side (crucial point), the bully loses power.

The power balance shifts. Ice breaks. Someone laughs, or says something in support of you, and the bully has nowhere to turn. They certainly can’t continue (unless they’re really stupid), with all those eyes on them.

You can involve and empower your bystanders in a bunch of ways, and all of them are effective.

 1. Get a laugh from an onlooker

If you’re quick of wit and have honed your sarcasm better than mine, go for it. It’s better to say something cheeky, rather than rude.

I am not good at this. Too sweary. Remember escalation is not the aim? Using bad language pisses people off, and bullying can be done ever so politely. The chances of the rude victim being cast as the baddie are high.

 2. Involve bystanders directly

It’s scary for all parties, but if you put on a show, people will watch. They may as well become part of the act.

Even though you don’t really want to, even though they don’t want you to, the best way in is to ask them a question:

“What would you do if someone said that to you?’ or ‘Can you believe he just told me I look like a ‘ragger’. What do you think?’

Bear in mind, this terrifies bystanders. But they are your only peaceful way out.

3. Make a fuss

Ask the bully about what they have just said or done, and be loud and very polite.

Make lots of very polite noise. Make sure everyone who is nearby can’t help but hear what is going on. Even with their backs turned.

They might have their eyes squeezed tightly shut in the hope they won’t have to become involved, but they can’t close their ears.

See, if other people know what is going on, you can then call on their assistance. If they don’t realise something is happening, they might be slower to catch on, if at all.

If you keep it polite-but-aggrieved, that helps the people around you understand that you are not the bad guy.

A more extreme version of this technique can be applied to extreme situations, such as a physical attack in the street:

Shout at the perpetrator, asking them who they are, that you don’t know them, and to stop whatever it is they are doing.

I practiced this one on a wannabe mugger in Leeds about 10 years ago at about 10:30 at night on a quiet, dark, residential street … and it worked a treat!

The mugger ended up hissing “Shhhh shut uuup, someone’s gonna hear you!”

Making a noisy fuss about what’s happening is embarrassing, awful, and makes everyone want to run away. Including the bullies.

But what’s better, is it enables people who have moral standards – of which there are more than you think – and who believe that fairness is important, to take a stand on your behalf.

All these techniques enable, and empower bystanders.

Now, there’s something wrong with this advice. Let me explain.

What’s the real long-term answer to bullying?

There are a lot of memes around social media that are focused on the rape culture that is so prevalent in the United States and the UK.

Ones like this:

rape culture meme

The point is, innocent people minding their own business shouldn’t have to change their own behaviour and their own natural reactions when it isn’t their faults that bullies behave the way they do.

Just like men shouldn’t rape, people shouldn’t bully!

With all the bullies (and rapists!) in the world, you might think it’s impossible to beget a culture change profound enough to enable this, but now here’s the magic:

If every victim of bullying involved bystanders, the bully culture will eventually die out.

It may seem natural for some personalities to pick on apparently weaker ones. Survival of the fittest, so-to-speak.

But that’s precisely why bystander involvement will change the culture completely!

When more and more bullies realise that their behaviour is not supported by anyone, they will tone down their behaviour and change their ways.

See, people are like dogs. When they identify positive experiences around certain behaviours, they are more likely to continue those behaviours.

So if the bully is the one who gets the laugh or involves the onlookers, their behaviour will continue.

But if that doesn’t work as a strategy for them, they will stop doing it. Eventually.

Until then, I recommend continuing with this anti-bullying practice. Let’s hope that your children never have to Google the phrase ‘How to beat the bullies’.

Have you or your child been affected by bullying? What do you think about my theory? Comment below! Also please share. Someone, somewhere, needs this information.

EDIT: To be honest, reading this almost a year later, I’m struck with how trite the tone of the piece. One thing I didn’t make enough of is that every bullying situation is individual — much depends on the personality of the bullied person and the type of bullying taking place. For example, bullying can be insidious, where people say things about a person, or put them in the spotlight in a negative way. It isn’t always someone pushing you around or being outright nasty to you. Perhaps these variances mean there is no definitive answer to bullying, but I for one would like this to be one answer to someone’s problems.

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PRESS THIS: When equality feels like oppression

I’m not the only one talking about privilege, and trying to declutter it to make it easier to understand.

When You’re Accustomed To Privilege, Equality Feels Like Oppression

This is a great post, with a story that explains why people get so upset when a ‘minority’ group get some form of equality. Goes some way to explaining why there are all those people yelling ‘All lives matter’ (because they don’t realise that their lives matter by default) in a misguided reaction to #Blacklivesmatter.


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