5 Tips to Overcome the Bystander Effect
Do you know about the bystander effect? It's a social dynamic that affects almost everyone when an observed conflict is either ignored or worse, reinforced by the failure to act by those observing. An example of this would be a number of people in a park observing a man trying to take a woman's purse, yet doing nothing to report the crime or to deter the criminal by drawing attention to their actions.
The sad fact is that most of us are vulnerable to this condition of non-action; but fortunately, there are things you can do to negate or minimize the impact. Here are a few tips for overcoming the bystander effect.
1. Realize that Others Deserve Your Help
People tend to take action more often when they feel that someone is more worthy of their attention. A quick example would be a man asking for money because he has run out of gas and forgotten his wallet when compared to a man in front of a liquor store asking for change so that he can drink. People are more likely to help the guy who forgot his wallet.
The lesson to take from this is: when you are not taking any sort of action to be helpful, consider your reasons carefully. If it is a situation where a person could potentially be hurt then your inaction not only makes you partially responsible for what happens next, it also empowers the aggressor to do as they wish. Whether you approve of the person or not, it is likely that they deserve your help.
2. Realize that it could be You
That's right. You could be the one being mugged or bullied. It is a powerful reason to always help your fellow man or woman whenever possible. Incidentally, should you find yourself a victim in a situation where the bystander effect is in play, try to make eye contact with as many of the onlookers as possible and ask for help. Never forget, you could be next, so consider this point carefully.
3. Take Notice of Eye Contact
Just as you can use eye-contact in order to help break the hold of the bystander effect on others, you should be aware that avoiding eye contact when something is occuring where you could help is a sure sign that you are being affected by the bystander effect. Be aware when this occurs and breaks the cycle of inaction. If you cannot directly assist for safety reasons, you can always move to a place of safety and contact authorities who can assist.
4. Get Others to take Action with You
Many times, people want to do something but they feign indifference in the belief that someone else will step in. Remind them loudly that something needs to be done and that everyone present can help. At the very least, this response draws more attention to what is occuring and might attract the attention of the authorities.
Furthermore, this can discourage the perpetrator of the action and help to reduce or eliminate the bystander effect in yourself and those around you. Remember to be safe, of course, but whenever possible, attempt to spur yourself and others into positive action.
5. Report the Incident
Another unfortunate product of the bystander effect is that criminal actions which occur in the presence of a number of witnesses are never reported, or only reported by the victim. One thing that we must all realize is that by not reporting what happened to the authorities, we are effectively harming the victim twice and empowering the perpetrator or perpetrators to do as they please.
By reporting incidents of a criminal nature, you help to ensure that the authorities and court systems are able to do their jobs by effectively punishing the perpetrator and helping the victim find closure.
We hope that you will use these tips to help yourself in overcoming the bystander effect. Inaction may seem innocuous but it is dangerous to everyone involved. Keep these tips in mind to empower yourself the next time you find yourself a victim of the bystander effect. It could literally save someone else's life or even your own.