How To Stop Being A Mean Girl And Be A Better Friend In 2020

Before I begin, a disclaimer:

This post is just as much for me as any of you. I am not absolved of any of this behavior in my past. Before you get your panties in a wad and send this post to your best friend and ask “WHO DOES SHE THINK SHE IS?!” Listen. I’m just saying what we all know, but don’t want to hear… because it stings. We don’t want to believe that WE as WOMEN would EVER perpetuate any kind of negativity towards other women, do we?! After all, if we have ever done such a thing, it was certainly not intentional OR the female on the receiving end of the negativity surely deserved it. Plus, we have all the cute “Girl Tribe” merch. We aren’t mean, duhhh! We are like TOTALLY feminists.

Right? Or… wrong?

It’s funny how many women I talk to (all of them) who say they “hate” drama, but probably aren’t doing a whole lot to make it stop. Might I remind you that Regina George may have been the ringleader but she wasn’t the only aggressor in the “Mean Girls” movie. Supporting the queen bee or simply remaining neutral or playing dumb can be just as bad.

I don’t know, guys. I just think we can all do better this year and beyond.

As a general rule, women are creatures of passion, high emotion, complexity, and, well, drama. The rules of engagement for adult female friendships have gotten even more convoluted thanks to the rise of social media. Boundaries are blurrier, anonymity is available, and mob mentality is rampant. As someone who’s job is to be on the internet all the time, I’ve become quite familiar with common cycles. You’ve seen the threads. Example: OP makes a statement, someone disagrees, OP’s friends react with a laughing emoji, then the disagree-er’s friends “like” all their comments… and before you know it it’s a polarized emoji/gif dog pile with the millennial Hatfield and McCoy girl gangs, but all in a dumb comment thread on a nuanced social media post. It gets out of hand so fast and it’s usually over something silly that was taken out of context. I’ve definitely been guilty of participating in these.

I thought of some things that we could all stand to do better, and I thought I’d make a blog post out of it. SO. Feel free to print this out, project it above your bed, have it tattooed on your forearm, whatever you fancy. Above all, drop your ego for a few minutes, take a true inventory of your behavior, and consider that there are a few things you could do or stop doing to help end the adult mean girl culture that’s alive and thriving.

1 | Stop screenshotting.

Screenshot capability is such a cool feature of your phone until it isn’t. Don’t screenshot someone to make fun of them in your group chat. Don’t screenshot a private revelation in a Facebook group to precipitate a reaction from someone. Don’t screenshot to show someone who’s talking crap about who (it’s the new 3-way call with your phone on mute). Just stop it.

2 | Stop misunderstanding people on purpose.

Literally EVERY. SINGLE. THING. EVER. can be taken out of context if you want to bad enough. “If you look for the bad expecting to find it you surely will.” If you go into a situation determined to disagree with someone, you will. It’s not hard. Practice giving people the benefit of the doubt. Practice not entering a conversation until you know you can be open to someone else’s point of view.

3 | Open your circles.

In my interactions with adult women over the years, I can totally tell who were the clique leaders in middle school, because that’s still their vibe. They still make fun of the odd ball when she gets up from the table. They still want to exclude certain ones from this or that event. They want people to feel uncool or left out. Don’t be that girl. Invite the new chick in town to your Christmas party. Include outsiders, especially the ones who are in need of female support.

4 | Stand up for people.

Loyalty seems to be a thing of the past sometimes and it sort of drives me nuts. “Well, she didn’t do anything to ME.” or “Well, I don’t want to cause any drama.” Have you heard those things when really wishing a friend would have stood up for you instead of playing Switzerland? So, this is where speaking up is actually important and not inflammatory. If someone is bashing someone, making fun of someone maliciously, or sharing confidential information that you know isn’t your business- SPEAK UP. Take up for other women. Make loyalty great again.

5 | Create boundaries.

As I said above, silence or indifference is just as bad as being an aggressor. There is absolutely no shame in telling people that you aren’t comfortable with what they are saying, or that you are friends with someone and don’t want to be involved in their efforts to smear someone, etc. It can be awkward, but it is a quick and solid way to make it known that you aren’t here for petty drama.

6 | Communicate.

So much can be solved with healthy communication. Sadly, it’s a skill that many people don’t naturally have and it took years and years of therapy for me to reach a place where I felt like I was good at it. If you have a problem with someone or something, bring it up in a healthy way. If you have no idea how to do that- ask a therapist. Google it. I don’t care. Just communicate your feelings. Nine times out of ten conflict arises from a miscommunication or a lack of information from either side.

7 | Make your own judgements.

I am absolutely guilty of deciding what I think about someone based on what other people have told me or what I’ve imagined based on their social media presence. Likewise, I have tried super hard NOT to spill my opinions on others to people who have no context. It’s not fair. So, first, stop trying to influence other people’s opinions of someone with your gossip. And second, don’t form an opinion about someone based on secondary information unless its a close and trusted friend and the information is not out of context.

8 | Let private issues be private.

Don’t advertise your interpersonal relationship drama. Don’t do things to attract attention so people will ask questions. Learn the value and sacredness of privacy when it comes to our journeys with other human beings. Things can be messy or even ugly and it’s not something that anyone should want an audience for.

9 | Honor secrets.

I love it when someone says “I promised I wouldn’t say anything, so I won’t.” or “I know she would want to keep this confidential, so I am not repeating it.” That tells me so much about someone. I’ve had a lot of amazing and long term friendships and we probably all know every single one of each other’s secrets. I’m sure if we wanted to, we could expose and humiliate and hurt each other with all the juicy dirty laundry we’ve accumulated over the years, but that’s not how friendship works… even in dark times. That felt disgusting to even type out, because, gross. What other women have confided in me will stay with me and I consider it an honor to have been close enough to someone to be trusted. Keep her secrets.

I’ve been to college, lived in four states, worked in multiple workplaces in female dominated industries, considered myself a colleague to thousands of other bloggers (virtually), and positioned myself to meet women in real life often. I have learned over the last decade and a half of adulthood that anything less than good vibes are a huge time suck and we can all do better.

No, everyone isn’t meant to be friends. No one is asking you to be besties and pen pals with all the women on the internet. Certain people will bond more than others because that’s normal human life. We will always vent to our close circle of friends and we will have to decide for ourselves what crosses a line into inappropriate. There are plenty of “but what about…” in this post. I know. I’m human. Shocker.

Here’s what we know: we should never resort to intentionally petty, hurtful, or divisive behavior. It wastes time, it invites more negative energy, and it accomplishes nothing. The best side effect, though, is that you’ll become a better friend, a happier human, and a stronger woman by choosing to lift { all } others instead of stepping on them.

So, this is one of your 2020 challenges, friends. Don’t be a mean girl. It ain’t cute.

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  • Reply
    Angela C Hutchins
    January 2, 2020 at 4:22 pm

    I copied this to my entire team. Thank you for sharing you with the world.

    • Reply
      January 2, 2020 at 4:27 pm

      Wow, thanks so much for reading!

  • Reply
    January 3, 2020 at 10:21 am

    Love it!!

  • Reply
    Charlotte Williams
    January 3, 2020 at 11:38 am

    Someone shared this on their IG story so I HAD to give it a read! I absolutely loved it—everything you brought up is so true and so well said. You’re such a great writer, too! Thank you for sharing.

  • Reply
    January 4, 2020 at 9:19 am

    Thanks for this. Hard at moments to read it, but exactly why I need to be reminded!

  • Reply
    Casey Lee Walker
    January 6, 2020 at 10:53 pm

    Absolutely loved this, Katie! I can be so guilty of #7, but know it’s something I need to make a cautious effort to change!

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