Dealing With Grown-Up ‘Mean Girls’


Do I feel as if I can speak out?

If not, why not?

We are all in many different types of relationships, from the fleeting interactions we have in a parking lot, to a family member or colleague we have to put up with, to our closest relationships that we are in for the long haul. But they all require the same foundation of managing ourselves with the following principles.

Being kind and polite is important. But when we are interacting with someone who is denying our dignity, kindness is not called for; demanding our dignity is. When we are grounded in our sense of worth, we can more easily value others’ dignity while projecting authentic power, empathy and grace.

When we make mistakes, we must be able to accept criticism without automatically labeling that criticism as “mean.” If someone gives us feedback that feels disrespectful, then we need to address that. But if someone critiques us because they want the best for us, that’s a gift.

We can’t undo generations of cultural baggage in a day. But we can start small and practice. Remember conflict is going to happen and we are all capable of handling conflict with dignity. And when we find ourselves in infuriating situations that threaten to derail us, these prompts can help us get back on track:

Help me understand … (say what made you angry)

Tell me more …

When we need to initiate the conversation, we can admit this is difficult without taking away the power of our words. We can say:

This is really hard to tell you because I value our friendship …

I haven’t told you how I felt before because …

It’s uncomfortable to tell you about something that’s upsetting me because I’m worried about …(say what’s making you angry).

The stakes are high. But we’ll never accomplish our goals if we can’t get beyond mean-girl behavior that makes it easier for others to dismiss us.

Rosalind Wiseman is the author of “Queen Bees & Wannabes,” the book that inspired the hit movie and musical “Mean Girls,” and the founder of Cultures of Dignity, an organization that fosters civil dialogue and inspires communities to build strength, courage and purpose.



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