Remember the movie Mean Girls? The popular movie that came out several years ago starring Lindsay Lohan where a group of “cool” girls use their power to terrorize other girls in the high school? Believe it or not these types of things still happen in college, even graduate school, even the office! Maybe not to the same extent, but have you ever stopped to think how powerful words are? “What is she wearing??” “Can you believe she said that?” etc. etc. But what good does talking behind someone’s back do? Does it make you feel better about yourself? Certainly it makes it easier to continue using damaging language.
I was a facilitator at the Women’s Leadership Retreat held this weekend for women at ISU, and was struck by a challenge one of the speakers put forth to us. She asked us to “practice sisterhood daily.” To do this, she directed, “Don’t say those things out loud.” The behind-the-back comments, the power-trip remarks. For one week, don’t say them out loud. After that, don’t even think them, she says. The less we say them and the less we think them, the less that type of behavior and language will even be an option for us.
We are women, and we need to support each other. Well, we need to support each other regardless of gender, but women have the tendency to be especially cruel to each other. I don’t know what it is – competition, jealousy, the need to feel in control, what, but it needs to stop. If someone makes a hurtful comment about someone else to you – what do you do? Go along with it and laugh? Say nothing? Why not try one of these tactics – ask the person to clarify what they mean. If they have to repeat it, they may realize how silly they sound. If you’re too uncomfortable calling the person out on their comment, at least change the subject so they realize you’re not going to tolerate that type of conversation.
Finally, let’s try to communicate with each other more. If you really need to say something to someone, have an adult conversation with them. Don’t just talk about it behind their back – that is not going to strengthen any relationship or be productive to anyone. I know this is something I am trying hard to work on! It’s not easy, but we NEED to make an effort. The more people are able to be honest with each other and communicate with each other, the stronger our friendships, offices, classes, will be. No, you don’t have to like everyone, but you will have to work with people you don’t like for the rest of your life. Let’s support each other!
Amanda Martin is doing a practicum in the Margaret Sloss Women’s Center this spring. She can be reached at email@example.com.