The Bystander Effect

It’s important right now


My wife’s a surgical nurse. Every year, every employee in their practice gets re-certified for CPR. And her docs let me tag along and earn re-certification too.

I actually used it once.

We were eating dinner at a restaurant when I heard a woman yell, really loudly.

I looked up, and sure enough, the guy had the classic two hands at the throat, mouth open, leaning forward pose.

Without even really thinking, I just jumped up, stood him up, put my arms around him from the back, and did the Heimlich thrust. I did it twice, and on the second upward thrust, the chunk of food popped out.

I don’t think I was the only person who could’ve helped that guy, but I was the only one who acted. All the other diners around them were in the middle of the bystander effect.

Why is it so few of us act when we see a situation that needs intervention?

Our country seems to be changing. Overtly racist xenophobes seem emboldened to verbally attack those who look different than them.

This really isn’t acceptable in America, or anywhere else for that matter, but I’m writing from America today.

When you see someone being abused, verbally or physically, get involved. Do something. Call the cops.

Stand up and stand with the victim of the attack.

Sometimes that’s all bullies need to see, and once you stand up, others might too.

We need to fight back against bullying every time we encounter it.

And the bystander effect applies to work too.

You know something’s wrong — an out-dated spot, a broken speaker, a coffee machine that leaks — but you wait for someone else to try to fix it.

Act. Help. Take the initiative.

Don’t just watch and complain.

Be your better self.