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Girls Hurting Each Other: Why Do They Do That?

Why? Why? Why?Why are girls so mean to each other? Why can’t they solve problems as boys do – swiftly, albeit physically, and then forget about it? Why do their problems drag on and are resurrected repeatedly? I hear these questions a lot. Of course, it’s a generalization to say all females and males act in a unique gender-based way to solve interpersonal conflicts. But, um, generally speaking – it is more true than not. Girls are more likely than boys to use words to get what they want or need. Is this nurture or nature? Let’s start with the brain.Part of it is a Brain ThingLouann Brizendine, an MD and author of The Female Brain, tells us that females have 11 percent more neurons than males in the brain center for language and hearing. The hippocampus, major center for emotion and memory formation, is also larger. The same is true for the part of the brain wired for language and observing emotion in others. In Brizendine’s words, “this means that women are, on average, better at expressing emotions and remembering the details of emotional events.”What does this mean for girls?It means that girls connect to others through language, a fabulous skill used to get to know others and to develop relationships. Girls at a very young age search faces for emotional clues. They listen to voice tonality. This is how they glean social approval and know if they’re being taken seriously. When girls note social approval and understanding, their self-esteem grows. They are able to key into the social acceptance of others. They are also keenly aware of when they are not accepted.Part of it is a nurture thingGirls are acculturated to be nice. Nice means pleasant, good, kind, polite, and fine. When there is conflict, the main emotions associated with it are anger, fear, or sadness. If girls are to act nicely while facing conflict or disagreement, they often swallow their emotions. Under these “nice-ruled” circumstances, it’s very hard to tell someone you’re angry to her face. That just wouldn’t be nice, would it? It’s easier, then, to say that all is OK when it really isn’t. It’s difficult to be honest.Isn’t honesty the best policy?Absolutely! However, it’s often hard for girls to tell another face-to-face that they feel wronged by them. It’s scary and it feels uncomfortable. After all, telling someone that she hurt your feelings would be wrong, wouldn’t it? It would feel awkward, because that just wouldn’t be nice.We can be educating our girls to be honest and open with other. Let’s teach them to be civil when they need to speak their minds. I will define civil as well-mannered in this case. One can be mad, hurt, scared, and show those emotions while remaining civil.Isn’t this hard, though?Darn straight it is! It’s difficult for many adults to stay civil under adverse conditions. Practice is the key. Parents and educators can help their girls to practice civil words and actions toward those who hurt them. At A Way Through, LLC, we like to use I-Messages with girls, so they learn to speak their truth civilly from a place of personal power. This doesn’t come easily nor does it sound natural at first. Practice, practice, practice! Take the role of the bully, and let your daughter or student practice saying how she feels and what she wants.Are all girls really “mean girls?”Absolutely not! Girls can learn to be mean, or with parental, school, and community guidance, they can learn to be honest and open communicators. They can learn to speak their minds face-to-face with civility and integrity. And that is a skill that will bring them social success and happiness into adulthood.© 2009 A Way Through, LLC

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