Main Menu

How to tell if it's bullying

Not all unkind or hurtful behaviour is bullying. Here’s how to tell the difference.

Teen trying to work out if something is mean, rude or bullying

Bullying is different from conflict or unkindness

Bullying is mean, but being mean doesn't mean bullying

  • It’s normal to argue or have conflict with others
  • Not all conflict, fighting or arguing is bullying
  • Someone can be rude or mean and it doesn’t make them a bully
  • Both bullying and unkindness can be upsetting and hurtful

Rude, mean or bullying?

Here’s what they all mean:

Carelessly saying or doing something that hurts someone, that wasn’t planned.
Purposefully saying or doing something to hurt someone on one or two occasions.
Hurtful behaviour that’s done on purpose and repeated over time, that involves an imbalance of power.

What’s the difference?

There are four things that can help you identify bullying over unkind, rude or mean behaviour.

Bullying is:

Unbalanced – the person who is bullying has more power (older, bigger, stronger, more control or influence).

Targeted they say or do things on purpose to hurt, embarrass, scare, harass or put you down.

Harmful – leaves you feeling hurt, harmed, unsafe, threatened, unable defend yourself. 

Repeated – they act this way towards you over and over again.

How to tell if it's bullying

If you’re unsure if someone is being unkind or bullying you, ask yourself:

  • Was it done on purpose to hurt you?
  • Is it a pattern? Does it keep happening?
  • Is it about power - do they have more control or influence than you?


If you answered YES to all of these questions, then it’s likely to be bullying.

Sometimes conflict is upsetting and unavoidable, but bullying is NEVER ok or acceptable.

Need someone to talk to?

We're here for you!

Whether someone is bullying you or being unkind, it can hurt.

You don’t have to go through this alone.

Give us a call, start a WebChat or send us an email today.

This content was last reviewed 18/04/2019

Was this information useful?

Help us by rating this page:

Thanks for your feedback!

Thanks for your feedback!

Talking helps! We’re here for you.

No problem is too big or too small.
We're here 24 hours a day, 7 days a week