School bullying is a problem, to be sure. It's always been a problem and I'm grateful for the attention and action that the issue has been paid.
I've been on the receiving end of a bully or two - I was a band nerd, wore braces and was on the speech team for god sake. I taught Deaf and Hard of Hearing kids for many years and helped my special education students confront peers (and their parents)after having been bullied. And I have two children with hemophilia. I may not be an expert on the finer points of assholes, but I've certainly navigated (and helped others navigate) the terrain.
What concerns me is this over-saturation and use of the term among adults to describe interactions with other adults. Otherwise normally functioning adults. (As opposed to spousal abuse, neighbors intimidating other neighbors, phone harassment, etc...)
Obviously there are adults who attempt to use bullying tactics, coercion, intimidation and aggression as a means to and end. However, I think adults need to be very cautious when using such language against one another; it dilutes the severity of true bullying and harassment, especially among school age children.
In researching the definition of bullying I've found the term to include: "To use superior strength or influence to intimidate (someone), typically to force him or her to do what one wants" (wiki) and "the act of being habitually cruel to others who are weaker". (Meriam Webster)
There it is. Bullying, by definition, means that one person is exerting power/strength/coercion, etc.... (physical, mental, emotional) to intimidate another.
I can think of several scenarios where this can happen between adults. Certainly.
Bully...bullying...bullied...it's become a buzz-word. We are all hyper-vigilant and sensitive to the issue. As such, invoking the word instills fear and defensiveness.
Piss off a coworker? Tell her she pissed you off? You're a bully.
Exclude a coworker in an after-work event? You're a bully.
Disagree vocally with a co-worker? Bully.
Share concerns about one co-worker with another co-worker? Stop bullying.
Adult disagreements have become a minefield, especially in the work place! After all, if I accuse someone of bullying me and my superiors do nothing to remedy the situation, I might sue them. But just because I've tossed that accusation out there, doesn't make it true.
There are quite a few people who might not play well with others. We may be abrasive. We may even lack tact and finesse. Some of us may wear our hearts on our sleeves and be rather opinionated. Our boundaries might be a bit fluid.
This does not mean we are malicious or have ill intent. Many of us are all too aware of our character flaws and that is why we may come off as 'prickly' or 'aloof'...better to keep folks at arm's length lest we be misunderstood. Some of us may even try to apologize when we realize that we have (yet again) inflicted hurt or caused misunderstanding.
Bandying about the word "bullying" makes us ALL less sensitive to those who are truly being victimized.
Not to mention the fact that calling someone you don't get along with or disagree with a bully gets in the way of you putting on your big girl panties, throwing down a shot of Jack and getting over your damn self.