In one of my past columns for the Ahwatukee Foothills News, I introduced you to an innovative approach to ending the bullying epidemic, called bully proofing. Instead of resorting to various punitive measures aimed at deterring future bully behaviors, bully proofing seeks to empower ALL students, giving them the necessary tools and strategies to be resilient in the face of a bully.

Now, I’d like to outline a bully-proofing strategy that I often share with my leadership students, which has proven to be quite effective. Keep in mind that this approach is universal and can benefit anyone, regardless of age.

The name of the strategy is “No Vacancy.”

There are countless metaphors one could use when describing the human brain, so for simplicity’s sake let’s imagine that our brain is like a magnificent, five-star resort and that each area of the resort serves a distinct function. It’s important to note that you are the owner of your resort and the bully is a potential guest.

The lobby is akin to the unique function of the prefontal cortex of our brain. Simply put, the prefontal cortex allows us to interpret our surroundings through conscious thought. So, when a bully comes to the lobby, he or she has one goal in mind, to become an uninvited guest at your resort. At this point, as the owner, you have the power to choose, through a process of critical thinking, whether or not you will allow this to occur.

The multiple guest rooms at your resort are akin to the limbic area of our brain, or emotional center. Let’s imagine that each room represents a different emotion. So, when the bully checks in at the lobby, guess which rooms they are interested in occupying? That’s right, the ones labeled anger, frustration or sadness. Based on how you interpret the bully’s request in the lobby, they will either be allowed to occupy one of the rooms or not. When we perceive the bully’s request as an emotional threat, we react accordingly and give them exactly what they want. On the contrary, when we perceive the bully’s request as an opportunity to practice emotional intelligence and recognize that we are the owners of our resort, the bully clearly understands that there is “No Vacancy” and moves on.

So, do you have any vacancy for a bully at your resort?

• Mike Sissel is a former Kyrene teacher who now owns and operates a youth leadership company, called KaleidoEye — Lenses of Leadership, and it’s administered in various schools throughout Ahwatukee. For more information about KaleidoEye’s programs and services, visit www.kaleidoeye.com or email mike@kaleidoeye.com.

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