We’ve had a little rash of mean-girl incidents around here. Several young women I know are facing mean girl situations -more or less on a continuing basis, so I’ve been trying to figure out how to help them.
Telling them why these girls are mean doesn’t fix the situation. It’s obvious that mean girls choose their actions as a direct result of their self-esteem issues. But even giving their victims this information doesn’t help the immediate problem.
I clearly remember spending most of my middle school and early high school years doing everything possible to just fly under the MG radar. I lived with the uncomfortable knowledge that if I stood out enough to be noticed, I would be completely picked apart. I felt like a mouse in a maze being watched by cats, waiting to pounce if I took a wrong turn.
I even knew WHY some of them acted the way they did. It was clear even to my 14 year old self that they were bitter and looking for attention. They were trying to make themselves look bigger by squashing someone else.
I don’t think we can really change the mean-girls. Which is sad, but have you ever known one who really wanted to be different? They like the power associated with it, even though it means they are generally without true friends.
So, back to looking for ways to help my young friends avoid being pounced on. I think it keys on two things:
First, recognizing the mean girls; the ones who act like they’re your best friends. They use phrases like:
“I was just trying to help you.”
“I’m so sorry this hurt you.”
“Someone else said this about you, but I told them to stop.”
Seriously, is there ANYTHING productive or positive in “letting you know” other than to just be hurtful and to feel like they somehow have the upper hand? Most of the time, help, pity, or righteous indignation would not be necessary if the mean girl hadn’t opened her big mouth in the first place. The only motive for this conversation is to make someone feel bad.
Second, the best defense is a good offense.
When I lived in the mountains there were many areas that had mountain lion sightings. The schools took to training the children about what to do in case they came into contact with one of these cats, which was a real possibility, considering that the school bus stops could sometimes be half a mile or so from the child’s home.
The things they taught were; 1) If you are in a group, you will probably not be bothered. Even so, you should 2) never, ever approach a mountain lion. If one approaches you, 3) do all you can to appear larger. 4) Do not turn and run, and if you’re attacked, fight back.
Mountain Lions/ Mean Girls... Hey, same safety rules!
1) Find real friends and stick with them.
2) It’s better to be alone, than to hang out with the mountain lions.
3) If you’re approached, show self confidence, smile, and be the bigger person. Refuse to engage in gossip or pretty much any actual conversation, other than just pleasantries.
4) If you’re attacked, don’t turn and run. It will make you a bigger target next time. The worst case scenario for a mean girl is to be called out. So be blunt.
If she says something snotty about you like; “Hey, lots of people are saying that you shouldn’t be the tennis team captain, because you really aren’t that good a player, but I told them to stop talking like that.”
You say – “Hey, are you trying to help me or hurt me?” Then wait for the answer. Ask “How would telling me that help?”
If a MG makes a gossipy comment, about someone else, say something like “I wonder how we could help her.” Or “I bet she could use a friend.”
It won’t make her nicer, but it will make her avoid you like the plague. And that’s really all you want anyway. Right?