When I was at school, I received quite a lot of verbal bullying. This waxed and waned over the years, and generally it was patchy enough that I could put up with it in the long term, even if in the short term I had some miserable days. But there was one guy, who I’ll call Brian, who was very persistent. Even when we left school at 18 and most of my peers had long since grown out of this sort of behaviour, Brian was actively seeking out chances to put me down and show his contempt.
It’s 10 years later and I am soon to be attending a school reunion. There are some old friends who I’m excited to be seeing, and a load of other acquaintances that I’m less bothered about, but with whom I’ll be happy to chit-chat and catch up a little.
Then there’s Brian. I know it’s silly, but I still get a little tight in my chest thinking about the fact that I might end up bumping into him. I have no idea how he will react to seeing me – I’m guessing that he has probably grown out of the bullying, and even if he hasn’t, I’m more confident now in brushing off that sort of crap. Weirdly, what I’m more worried about is that he might cheerfully come up to me and ask how I’m doing, either forgetting or ignoring the way he behaved towards me in the past. If that happens, I’m really not sure how I should react.
- I don’t feel that I have anything to gain from a confrontation – I’m unlikely to have any contact with Brian beyond this, and I strongly suspect that bringing up the bullying will not resolve anything and could make me look petty to others who are present.
- The idea of being friendly towards him as if nothing has happened bothers me.
- I also don’t want to spend the whole day actively avoiding him, as that would interfere with meeting other people.
- I want to have a clear idea about what I might say, as I know that if I’m caught off-guard, I may end up making bitter comments or creating awkwardness.
- My ideal outcome would be to end the conversation as quickly as possible, without being confrontational, but also without being false – I don’t want to pretend I like Brian when I don’t.