This isn't really a sexual thing, just something that makes me uncomfortable. So I hate having my hair up or braiding it or doing anything with it in general because I think it looks weird and it's just uncomfortable to me. However, two of my friends annoy me every day, trying to braid it. I have to avoid them in classes and in the hallway just so that they won't annoy me. When I'm at my locker, they come up to me and just start touching my hair and it gets me really uncomfortable and also really annoyed.

I don't know if I'm just overreacting, but these girls bother me constantly and I just hate when they do it. However, they are my friends so I feel bad if I tell them off about it or legitimately freak out. I am not someone who can handle a serious confrontation without panicking, so I am too scared to confront them about it, and I doubt they would take me seriously. It's starting to get annoying because they come up to me during lunch, when I'm in the hallway on my way to class, before and after school.

I constantly have to deflect their hands and sometimes grab them so that they don't touch me. Everyone else who sees is just like "Haha, (Name) is trying to braid her hair again hahah" but they don't do anything about it when I legitimately ask for help, and they take it as a joke.

I graduate in a couple of months but this has gone from a maybe 3 times a month thing to an everyday dilemma. Again, I might be overreacting because it's just hair and they're only joking, but I just don't like it and honestly don't like physical contact in the first place. This just really upsets me and I need help on what to do and how to deal with the situation. I probably cannot handle confronting them. What are better strategies to stop this from happening?

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    – Ael
    Commented Feb 6, 2020 at 13:16
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    Is the physical contact essential to the problem? Is it what it makes it uncomfortable for you, or could it be something else that is equally uncomfortable? I ask because it seems very similar to a situation that was so uncomfortable that I abandoned a friendship. But is was not physical, and between two men much older than you. He annoyed me with a kind of joke that was pretty stressful for me, more than he knew. It could be the same pattern for you, and it is the core problem, and the kind of joke is not so relevant, the stress is the same. Main point: It hurts, they do not understand it. Commented Feb 7, 2020 at 15:01

7 Answers 7


First see the situation from another perspective:

  • These people do something to you that you don't want to be done
  • They do it without your consent
  • They do it daily
  • They know you don't like it but they do it anyway
  • They don't take your objection seriously and joke about it

This is bullying and not something "friends" should do. And it's not something you should put up with just because you graduate in a few months.

One way to deal with this is using so-called "I messages" or "I feel" messages. These intend to make your friends see the situation from your perspective without directly blaming them (which would trigger defensive arguments).

First all people involved in the problem should meet somewhere where they can talk without being disturbed. Then you start by explaining that you want to talk about them touching your hair. Explain the situation from your perspective alone by starting sentenses with "I feel", "I do / don't like" and similar "I ..." statements. Some examples are:

I know it's fun for you to braid my hair, but I really don't like you touching my hair.

I feel like I have to fight you off every day.

I have the impression you don't take my feelings seriously.

I don't feel like I'm a friend to you anymore because you rile me up on purpose every single day.

I really wish that you stop touching my hair because it makes me feel violated.

You can learn more about the "I message" communication on Wikipedia, Youtube and other websites (the last one is relationship advice, but explains the difference between "you messages" and "I messages" quite well).

If they still bully you after you talked to them in private, you should not consider them "friends" anymore. They are bullies and make you the victim of their bullying. This distinction between "friend" and "bully" is important because true bullies react differently to your approaches.

There are several articles about how to avoid bullying, like this one, that states:

The first line of defense against a bully, experts agree, is avoidance. It is wisdom, not weakness, to walk away from a bully. A second line of defense is to recruit a companion; bullies tend not to pick on people who are surrounded by friends.

Bullying is a self-rewarding behavior. The bully doesn't care that they hurt you, as long as they have fun or have an advantage like higher social status (being "cool"). Removing the reward from the action or introducing a penalty makes bullying less fun.

Being reprimanded by teachers or called out for their behavior by students is such a penalty, so your goal should be to include others in these situations and prompt them indirectly to penalize the bullying.

To do so you should make their bullying visible to others. If everyone thinks this is all some friendly fun, no-one will ever step in and your bullies will never see a reason to stop it.

To make it clear that what's happening is not fun, you need to speak up the moment it happens and and use strong words. Speak loud enough that other people hear you. Some examples are:

I asked you not to touch my hair. Why do you touch me against my will?

Stop bullying me! (In a loud and assertive voice. Don't smile or laugh while saying this.)

I told you I don't want to be touched like that. Stop ignoring my personal boundaries!

Get your grabby hands off me!

Adapt phrasings to your respective cultural context. I'm no native english speaker and some of these phrases don't translate well. Depending on where you live, common phrases might differ.

All these highlighted phrases are laden with a strong meaning. There are ways to say the same thing more politely, but that would completely miss the goal. You want your friends to realize that their behavior is not acceptable and you want other people to realize that you are treated in an unacceptable way. The best possible outcome would be that someone else spontaneously gets involved and makes the bullies feel emberrassed.

Speak to (real) friends and teachers about it and let them help you. Make them aware of the problem so they can take you seriously and step in when call attention to being bullied.

A study examined how people reacted to bullying in a workplace situation and what the outcome of different reactions was. The result:

  • Trying to be friends with bullies or sending signals that the behavior is ok almost always ends badly
  • Asking colleagues, friends and family for help often improves the situation
  • Removing the reward by avoiding and ignoring the bullying often improves the situation

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    "Asking colleagues, friends and family for help almost always improves the situation" - If I understand the table correctly, asking colleagues for help made the situation better only 31.6% of the time (and worse 13.7% of the time). Commented Feb 6, 2020 at 14:54
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    @user3153372 what's worrying is that for most approaches, most of the times, it did not affect the situation.
    – user3399
    Commented Feb 6, 2020 at 14:55
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    @user3153372 I compared "Talked to coworkers", "Talked with family/friends" and "Asked colleagues for help" to other kinds of reactions like "behave extra nice" or "threatened to tell others". It's true not everyone experienced an improvement following these actions, but the numbers suggest these are the actions with the best chance of improvement. Maye the wording can be improved, though.
    – Elmy
    Commented Feb 6, 2020 at 15:01
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    The one phrase I would not use is “Stop bullying me,” as it sounds like an attempt to use a rule as a shield rather than sincere displeasure. Other than that, top-notch answer.
    – VGR
    Commented Feb 7, 2020 at 19:03
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    I am not sure that statistics about the workplace (with adults) can be generalized to schools (with teenagers, that react differently to authority, rules and have different incentives for their behavior)
    – Taladris
    Commented Feb 9, 2020 at 15:37

TW: Moral and physical abuse, sexual assault

The situation you describe is physical abuse. You don't want something, they know it, they do it anyway. You might consider them your friends, that doesn't make it any less of an issue.

I was harassed at school for three years. It started when I entered middle school at 10 years old; people would think I'm weird because I wouldn't smile often and because I was very interested in class (I was very scholar at the time, whereas other kids would be passionate about game, gossips, recess ...). It got much worse after a year and they would insult me daily, they would hit me, and they would immobilize me on the floor and pretend to rape me. That is at that time when my "friends" turned their back on me and join the game of insulting and punching me. My situation got solved by talking about it to my main teacher who summoned the whole class (without me), asked them why they would dislike me and do this to me, and reminded them that harassment is punished by law. They were terrified and stopped harassing me right away.

My so-called friends however, they saw I was very fragile and they took advantage of the situation. They would let me think I hurt them by saying something and then refuse to talk to me, only to see me crawling to apologize and say that I'm a terrible person and friend. It made them laugh. It damaged me a lot only to make me who I am today, an insecure person who apologizes for trifling matters and has issues with boundaries. You don't have to let it go that far. Don't let them ruin your self-esteem.

What I wished I knew at that time is that it doesn't have to go until this point. Eight years after that, my sister entered middle school and began to face harassment too. She's fiercer than I am though, and probably more clever. When the other kids started to mock her, she just laughed with them. It drove them crazy. They were waiting for her to burst into tears and she didn't get them what they wanted. She played along.

So here's what I'm suggesting you do: next time they try to touch your hair, do the same to them. Prepare some eccentric hair slides and/or scrunchies (if you can), and when they start to touch you, say

no no no, today it's your turn, let me take care of you, you're gonna be beautiful!

Make it a game. Laugh all the way through. Tell them you just want to return the favor, they're just great hairdressers, aren't they? Chase them in the hallway if you have too. They should be very surprised and not willing to do it again because they'd have made a fool of themselves. And remember: it's not about bad-mouthing yourself. What you want to do is to use humour to both ridicule their behaviour and show they have no power over you.

Another thing to try if you're not fond of the first option, is to come to school one day with your hair up and/or braided. I know it requires some self-confidence as you're uncomfortable with your hair not being loose, but the surprise it would inspire could likely stop them:

Hey Anna ! Darn, what happened to your hair?

Heh, I just wanted to try something new. Apparently braids are so fashion this year!

This goes back to what I said at the very beginning of this post. You don't want your hair to be up, they know it, and they decide not to respect that because it's "fun" to see you being unhappy and uncomfortable with that. If you tie your hair up yourself they realize they don't have power over you, the same way they don't when you laugh about their mockeries whereas everything they wanted was to break you.

I sincerely think that defusing the situation with laughs and unexpected reactions is the first and most effective way to stop harassment, and therefore I'd advise you to start with that. However, if it doesn't get better, then please seek help from the school. Nobody has the right to disrespect you.


I was bullied in the past and I have to say this. Those people aren't your friends, they are bullying you.

They don't respect your boundaries, they make you feel bad and you are absolutely right to avoid them.

No, you are not overreacting. This is your body and your life. Not having your hair touch is obviously very important to you and you have every right to make a big deal out of it. Because it is a big deal to you.

As I said, I was bullied in the past. How did I solve things? I didn't. I tried everything I could think of, but nothing worked. Here is the thing I didn't try though: asking for help from an adult.

I was too shy and terrifies to do that. I thought it would make me weak. But here is the trick: everyone needs help from time to time. And the hardest thing I have ever done in my life was to ask for help. It took me several years but, someday, I finally work up the courage to ask for it and I don't regret it. It was hard, it was terrifying but it saved my life and made me able to be happy again.

Maybe you are telling yourself: "it's not that bad, I shouldn't need help for that". You are right, it could be worse. But this is absolutely not an excuse to keep suffering like you are. You need help, please ask for it.

In my case, in needed help because, even though I wasn't bullied anymore, I still had depression and serious anxiety issues (along with other problems like trust issues, etc..)

I first ask for help from a doctor (not my regular one) who guided toward a psychiatrist who was better able to help me. I have changed therapist since (the first one wasn't a good match for me) but I still have a therapist that I see every 3 weeks. This therapist is helping me a lot. She helps me setting boundaries and having them respect by other people. She is also helping me getting rid of the people who don't respect them.

I also know someone who had a very hard situation going on with her father. I don't know the details but I know she asked her "foreign language" teacher for help. This was the adults that she trusted the most and that is why she asked this specific adult for help.

Long story short, after my friend asks this teacher for help, her faster lose custody of her and her siblings and her mother got full custody.

Here is my conclusion:

Maybe you can fix this situation on your own. However, I find this possibility unlikely and that is why I urge you to ask for help from an adult you trust.

If this adult doesn't take the situation seriously. Please, ask another one. This is very important and this is something I also had to do. I know how hard it can be but, please, don't give up. You need that help and you deserve it. And, if you truly believe that you are overreacting. Remember, that nothing bad can happen by just asking for help.

Please, ask for help. You deserve it as much as anyone else.


I'm going for the less offensive/agressive answer here:

Just tell them you don't like your hair being touched. You can say this in a neutral tone, no need to be aggressive or offensive:

Could you please not touch my hair? It makes me feel uncomfortable :)

It's very normal to not like something, you create boundaries like this all the time. If someone says "Hey Elle, you want a piece of food you don't like?" you simply respond with a "no thank you".

The reason I suggest this approach is because you will encounter many more situations in your life which aren't going to be as you want, which'll make you uncomfortable. And some could be solved by just telling others how it makes you feel. I've found that communication solves a lot of problems.

I personally do not think they're bullying (and I have been on the recieving end of bullying), or you should break fingers, or that "those people aren't your friends" because of this. I might be simplifying this, but IMO this is 'just school stuff', nothing huge.

It's a tease. One you're not fan of, but if you study them, they likely tease each other too. Just a simple "no thank you" should help a lot.

However, if after saying this a few times and they still continue, please look at the other answers, because then it's no longer a tease.

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    OP has already said they don't like it several times, or at least that's the impression I get. Why do you think them doing the same thing again will result in a different outcome?
    – Kat
    Commented Feb 6, 2020 at 20:56
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    @Kat "I am too scared to confront them about it, and I doubt they would take me seriously." People are bad at communicating, and even worse at reading body language. It is entirely possible that OP has never clearly and firmly told the other parties, but instead relied in behavior to indicate their discomfort. If you have strong feelings it feels like everyone should be able to plainly see that, but it isn't obvious unfortunately.
    – user27896
    Commented Feb 7, 2020 at 2:08

Many of the answers assume you're being bullied, however from your question I got the feeling that they were friends who just haven't learned to respect your boundaries yet.

From my limited perspective I would say you have two options: Ignore the hair touching behavior or enforce boundaries.

In your case I would recommend the second option, enforcing boundaries. I personally think this is the healthiest option in the long run for both you and your friends. However you specifically stated you didn't want to confront them. So really your only option then is to ignore the behavior.

In 2nd grade I had a bully who bothered me so much that it made me physically ill. At least that's what my mother tells me. I remember the bully but not being sick about it. My Dad and Mom sat me down and told me to ignore the bully. If you don't give a bully a reaction, they won't get the entertainment they are looking for and will leave you alone. It took over a month, but before that year was out the bully stopped bothering me.

I would like to offer a reframe if I may? Clearly explaining your boundaries (what is ok for physical touch for you). doesn't have to be a confrontation. If you stay calm, I think it could be a good growing experience for your friends, and (assuming they are basically decent people) a good experience for you as well.

Here are the steps I would follow:

  1. Invite them to get a cookie with you, your treat. This is a nonverbal way of communicating that they are a valuable person to you and that you like them. Feeling valuable to you will likely make them more likely to listen to you instead of getting defensive. You could say something like:

    Hey do you want a cookie? My treat.

  2. After getting the treat state your problem. Make it your problem, not theirs:

    Hey I've got this thing were I really don't like my hair touched. I know it's odd, but for whatever reason I just really really don't like it.

  3. Define the boundary and ask them to respect it.

    Could I ask you to please not touch my hair anymore? I know it's a little odd, but I would really appreciate it if you stopped.

  4. Stand firm. Even a good friend may test you to see how serious you are. If they try to touch it again, sternly but not angrily tell them you are serious. Don't use the word "please".

    Don't touch my hair. I'm serious.

  5. Enforce the boundary.

    If they still continue to touch your hair, don't say anything else, just turn around and walk away.

You don't have to stay away forever. The next time you see them, smile warmly and say hi. Ask how they are doing. If they try to touch your hair, don't say anything, just turn around and walk away. You should only have to do this a couple of times for them to realize you are serious and to stop. If they don't stop, well then you know something new about them, and I would guess you should look for new friends.

Good luck with whatever you choose to do.


As others have pointed out, this is bullying. Friends might legitimately do something like this once or twice, but if they continue to make a regular pattern of it after you clearly tell them to stop, they are no longer acting as your friends.

Elmy's answer gives several very useful suggestions for dealing with such issues in a workplace. Please don't follow them, as you aren't at work and your tormentors aren't coworkers. They aren't mature adults, and they can's be fired by HR for misconduct. (Yes, expulsion is a thing. No, it won't happen unless they escalate exponentially worse than what they're currently doing.) Trying to use adult negotiating tactics against them will paint a target on yourself, inviting ridicule and humiliation from other students. You know it's true.

In my experience, both from being on the receiving end and from observing others in similar predicaments, there are only three things that ever work against teen bullies, and "standing up to them" the way cheesy TV shows tell you is not one of them. Here's what does work:

  1. Overwhelming force. Make it abundantly clear that you are not someone they want to mess with. This is probably a bad idea. I've spent the last 3 years studying martial arts, gotten pretty good at it, and I still would not want to lead with this approach. (Especially given that bullies tend to be physically larger than their victims.) The training shown on the show Cobra Kai is a pretty massive lie; being able to be confident you can defend yourself well takes years of serious training, not weeks or months. (And being able to do so against a hostile, resisting opponent, without causing serious harm to them, is much, much harder still!) Do this wrong -- or do it at all in a school environment -- and you could end up facing serious problems! (Up to and including criminal charges that will literally ruin your life.) So don't try getting physical with them; I'm only mentioning it because you're probably thinking about it, as victims often do.

    A possible variant is the force of authority. If you can find a sympathetic teacher or principal who will believe you when you say that this is a serious problem, and is willing to intervene to put a stop to it, that would be great. It was a completely worthless strategy when I was in high school, but I understand that schools have gotten better at understanding how serious of a problem bullying is since then, so it might be worth a shot.

  2. Tough it out. What you're describing isn't something that will pose a long-term threat to your health or well-being. If you're graduating in a few months, and this is as bad as the bullying is getting, all you have to do is endure it a bit longer and you'll be free. High school is a weird place where basic rights are often simply disregarded, but once you get past it things get a lot better. This is a viable strategy, but you'll be uncomfortable and probably miserable to some degree for the next few months. But I totally get that this isn't what you want to hear. I certainly wouldn't have back then! High-school-me would have told adult-me to shut up and either say something actually useful or get lost. So, if you don't want to do this, here's something useful:

  3. Take away their rewards. Bullies "win" by exercising power over you and making people laugh at you. (As you put it, "Haha, [Name] is trying to braid her hair again hahah".) So go on the offensive instead. Cut your hair short so it can't be braided. Or style it in some completely outrageous way that they can't "improve" upon. Or dye it bright green. (Don't do anything permanent; this only has to last until graduation!) If you take control of your own hair so completely that their "joke" doesn't work anymore, it forces them to either leave you alone or try to find something else to pick on you over, and if they choose the latter, then it becomes a lot more obvious that they're just looking for reasons to bully you. (See alternative in point 1, above: this is evidence that can be presented to an authority figure.)

    Making it not fun anymore is probably the most effective thing you can possibly do of your own volition. Shortly after I graduated, I took a job at a fast food restaurant. Most of the workers were about my own age, a little older or a little younger but not by much. There was one girl there, still in high school, who liked to tease and be obnoxious. A lot of the stuff she tried on me would probably be considered sexual harassment today, but 20 years ago people cared less about such matters. (Especially when it's a girl doing it to a guy. That's funny, ha ha!) The manager didn't care as long as nobody got injured and the burgers kept getting made. So eventually I decided to change the rules of the game.

    The next time she tried catcalling at me and telling me to come into the break room and she'd give me a lap dance, I called her bluff. I went in there with a big grin on my face, ran a hand sensually over her shoulder and arm, and sat down in a chair in front of her. This was totally out of character for me, completely unexpected, and so she had no idea how to handle it. So she freaked out and was all "ewww! What are you doing?!?" And suddenly the other coworkers were laughing at her instead of me! She never picked on me again, and eventually we even became friends.

I'm not gonna sugar-coat this. You're in a bad situation and there's no easy way out. Techniques for mature adults to deal with other mature adults will almost certainly make things worse rather than better, because the people you're having trouble with are not mature adults. (Especially when they're bullying others; that's generally correlated with being below average in emotional maturity!) But the things I mentioned here will help if you can figure out how to pull them off.

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    Um, did you notice in the table of how to handle the situation in the workplace, talk to HR has twice the chance to make things worse as make things better? The workplace isn't nearly as different from school as you think.
    – Ed Grimm
    Commented Feb 7, 2020 at 1:30
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    @EdGrimm Academia is very different to school. I have not read the study in question but I am very very skeptical about generalizing the results of a very narrow scope study to such a broad spectrum of situations. Children are not expected to behave the same way as adults, this alone changes the situation hugely.
    – user27896
    Commented Feb 7, 2020 at 2:18
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    @pwi my point was more that the table was showing poor results in the workplace from the same sorts of things as Mason was suggesting weren't options because of the difference in venue. It is a different environment, but it's not necessarily completely alien, either. I'm also aware that bullies in the workplace tend to be former school bullies, and unless your workplace is very different from mine you probably know some adults don't even manage to behave themselves as well as we expect high school students to behave.
    – Ed Grimm
    Commented Feb 7, 2020 at 2:31
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    @EdGrimm It's not completely alien but it isn't similar at all. There are vastly different expectations on students and teacher than there are on employees. What's more, HR is vastly different to talking to a teacher, that comparison is a complete mismatch.
    – user27896
    Commented Feb 7, 2020 at 2:37

In comment someone asked if I was victim-blaming in this answer. No, it's not victim blaming because I never blamed the victim for anything. What I'm saying is that 1) two wrongs don't make a right and 2) the other person might not actually be a bully and you won't know until you handle the situation appropriately. Maybe OP did handle it appropriately: maybe, maybe not, we don't know exactly how it happened.

If OP did act appropriately in a manner I've pointed out, then that just means they're already partway into the steps. If your complaint is "OP's already started that and it's not working well," well then I have covered that too in the answer below.

How to not act

However, they are my friends so I feel bad if I tell them off about it or legitimately freak out. I am not someone who can handle a serious confrontation without panicking

This is your social issue right here. You should feel bad about telling them off or freaking out since there is no need for that except as a last resort after trying more civil things multiple times. Well, at least originally, though now you say you've mentioned it to them, but do you remember precisely how you mentioned it?

If you consider someone your friend, you should treat them nicely. If you said any of the things mentioned in Elmy's answer, such as "Stop bullying me (in a loud and assertive voice)" or "Get your grabby hands off me!", as a first reaction without first making it over-abundantly obvious how you feel and without giving me the slack of a couple of accidental violations (ie: "Oops sorry, it's sort of become habit now. But I respect you and will try not to do it again.") then I would consider you to be the mean one. It is ok only as a last resort.

You also need to be careful that you make your actual intention obvious. If I was your friend and you told me today "Please don't touch my hair" when it's a thing I do every day, I might do it again tomorrow since you weren't clear that I need to never touch your hair. Then the next day, if you "told me off" about it I would assume you were just grumpy that day and being a jerk. In fact, I might yell back at you and tell you off for your outburst.

In fact, it is possible that your friends might push more just because you don't respond appropriately. I used to be that way too.

Years ago at a public event I stood next to a tree to watch a performance. Some people came after me, sat down about 5 meters behind me, then they threw some popcorn at me and shouted rudely "Sit down in front!" That is a completely inappropriate first request, so I just yelled back at them "Shut up in back!" Later a different person came up and asked me politely to sit because he could not see, told me he was not with the rude group, and I moved for him.

Another time I was invited to someone's house for dinner and we were told we could get what we needed from the fridge. Someone asked me to grab something specific for them, and I had it open nearly a half-minute looking for the requested item when the host screamed at me harshly "Shut the ******* fridge!!!" I ignored her until she screamed again 5 or 10 seconds later "I said shut the damn fridge!" So I simply said "I heard you the first time but I don't obey orders shouted at me by ********. Next time try politely." She didn't respond, but I'm pretty sure she was super pissed.

The above two paragraphs are examples of potential reactions by your friends if you mishandle the situation. And if they are like I used to be it might even explain why they are behaving the way they are; of course I cannot know for sure, and it depends on how you asked before and what they are like.

If you're not clear when you're being nice, or you're clear but being unkind unreasonably, then you should not expect the situation to resolve.

Initial Reaction

Stop touching my hair.

Bad. For good friends, the best this is guaranteed to do is help you right now, but that's not your goal.

Stop it! And don't ever touch my hair again! (very loudly and sternly)

Bad. Even for good friends, this might work or they might only take away from it that you don't respect them enough to ask nicely the first time.

I don't like my hair touched. Every time you do it, it bothers me. Don't touch it anymore. (In a calm, polite way, with no telling them off or freaking out.)

Good. And if they say or do anything against that, like continuing to touch it or giving an excuse or insulting you, then you just politely stand your ground.

Just don't touch it. I don't like to be touched, so don't ever touch my hair again.

If you part ways that day and come across them again later, remind them.

Remember not to touch my hair. I'll get grumpy if you do.

Secondary Reaction

So you've had your initial reaction. Now a day or two later they do it again anyway even though you asked nicely. This might be them not caring, or it might be them forgetting or having developed a habit of it by now and doing it without thinking.

At this point you might not know if they are sincere about accidentally violating you or if they are just being mean. If someone genuinely forgot or accidentally did it without thinking out of habit and you get cranky at them over it, you could undo any progress you've made.

For now, try to rebuke them as gently and politely as you can. Give them the benefit of the doubt.

(dodges friend's hand or pushes it away) Remember I said I don't want you doing that anymore. Don't do it again. Respect my boundaries.

I would suggest you respond to their negligence this way for at least 2 violations. I usually do for more than 2, but that's just me. After 2 of these, they've had at least 3 strikes.

If you decide "This is the last time. I'm not giving any more warnings after the next one." then you should let them know that was the last time and future violations will be met with more resistance.

Stop. You're not respecting me. Next time I won't be nice about it anymore."

Now you can tell them off or freak out

After all of the above, if they still do it then you've done your due diligence. If you've truly been polite and respectful while doing all the above, then you've given them ample opportunity to treat you like a friend and they failed.

If you don't want to just cut off the friendship at this point, you can respond to further violations with stern rebukes. Now you can yell at them, smack their hands away, tell them how lousy they are at respecting other peoples bodies. Now you have no shame in shouting "Get your damn hands off my hair!"

At this point, if you've yelled at them even once, you should think about whether they are really friends. Feel free to tell them that too.

You are disrespecting my body. You are being a bully. It makes me wonder if you are really a friend.

I once got someone to change their behavior by pointing out to her that she was being a bully. She didn't believe it at first, and I had to point out to her how she is repeatedly disrespecting someone and attempting to dominate social interactions, and that makes her a bully. When she finally understood she seemed ashamed. That's a good thing.

My experience with this

I have experience with this on both sides.

When I was about 5-10 I was a little jerk to certain people and ignored their demands about their personal boundaries. I was awful when I was very young. I regret it, and fortunately I grew out of that before my teen years.

When I was maybe 10-25 I was better, but I would still ignore any demands that I felt were made unreasonably (see two examples above). I'm trying to help you see it from that point of view. I'm not saying what I did when ignoring unreasonable demands was ok - I'm just trying to help get better results against it. Whether it's ok is a matter for a separate discussion.

That's my experience on your friends' side, but on your side I also have dealt with it many times and still do.

I have found that starting off gentle and polite and escalating does a few things. It...

  • avoids negative results if your friends are like I used to be

  • allows you to get a better idea of how respectful the other person is by how much you have to escalate before they respond positively

  • makes you the "good guy" since you were nice about it

  • avoids embarrassment or shame that comes from being overly dramatic and rude unnecessarily


Start off very gentle and kind, but also be very obvious about what your goal is (to never have your hair touched ever again). Remind them before they even do it. Rebuke them very gently and kindly the next couple violations. After that you can flip out on them and they have nobody to blame but themselves.

  • 1
    So the bullied one must avoid being "unkind" and "unreasonable" when asking the bully to stop... and that, as judged by the bully?? Doesn't this sound too much like victim blaming? To me, this whole answer sounds like an explanation of why "asked bully to stop" and "acted extra nice" tends to make things worse according to the table in Elmy's answer.
    – hmijail
    Commented Feb 8, 2020 at 15:33
  • @hmijailmournsresignees No, it's not victim blaming because I never blamed the victim for anything. What I'm saying is that 1) two wrongs don't make a right and 2) the other person might not actually be a bully and you won't know until you handle the situation appropriately.
    – Aaron
    Commented Feb 10, 2020 at 16:16

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