Archive for Group/Team Leaders

Guiding Girls Through Inspiring Stories

Welcome to our Guiding Girls Through Inspiring Stories series.  Here you can find stories filled with life lessons to inspire girls to use their personal power.  Each story is designed to help girls examine their values, address friendship problems, understand relational aggression or emotional bullying, or embrace the differences in others.  There are clarifying questions at the story’s end to help girls apply lessons learned to their own lives.  Join us here every other week.  Enjoy!

Sometimes You Just Have to Do It Yourself!

Have you ever wished someone would invent a contraption that would do your homework for you?  How about a new vegetable that tastes like chocolate ice cream?  Mmm!   Lots of inventions come out of “accidental” experimenting, but many come from a want or a need.

Josephine Cochrane had a want.  She was a wealthy woman who gave many dinner parties and used lots of dishes. She wanted clean dishes and was tired of having them broken or chipped by the help.  Someone else had already invented a machine for washing dishes, although that machine was hand-cranked and only splashed water on dishes.  It hardly worked, so Josephine reportedly said, “If no one else is going to invent a dishwashing machine, I’ll do it myself.”  And that’s exactly what she did!

It Didn’t Happen Easily

Josephine went about measuring dishes and creating spaces for them in her version of the dishwasher.  Around the time she was doing this, her husband became ill and died.  Previously, Josephine had all the money she needed.  With her husband’s death, that was no longer true.  She was left owing more than she had.  That didn’t stop her, though.  She persevered, and eventually completed her invention.  She displayed it in 1893 at the Chicago World’s Fair and started her own business which built and sold dishwashers.  Josephine went from hostess to inventor to mechanic to business owner to marketer to advertiser in her lifetime.

What About You?

You never know where a want or a need will take you.  Perhaps we’ll read about something you invent some day!

Extension Questions:

  1. What are some lessons you learned from the Josephine Cochrane story?
  2. Who might you look to for help when there don’t seem to be any answers from anyone else?
  3. Why do you think Josephine persevered in her invention after her husband died?
  4. How could a do-it-yourself attitude help you with friendship problems?  Hurt you?
  5. Do you think a person with a do-it-yourself attitude is more or less likely to be bothered by relational aggression (emotional bullying)?  Support your answer.

© 2010 A Way Through, LLC  

WANT TO USE THIS ARTICLE IN YOUR EZINE OR WEB SITE? You can, as long as you include this complete blurb with it: Female friendship experts Jane Balvanz and Blair Wagner publish A Way Through, LLC’s Guiding Girls ezine. If you’re ready to guide girls in grades K – 8 through painful friendships, get your FREE mini audio workshop and ongoing tips now at

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Target vs. Victim

Often when people talk about relational aggression, or emotional bullying, they refer to the target as the victim.  I’m not comfortable with using the term “victim” in this way.

Target does not equal victim.  Being a target in an emotional bullying situation means you have been called a mean name, someone started a rumor about you, or perhaps a friend lied to you about plans for the weekend.  Someone is trying to hurt you.  It’s factual and it’s in someone else’s control.

Being a victim is a choice.  Always.  Every time.  Thinking as a victim is a choice of mindset.  No one else can take a girl’s personal power away, but she can certainly give it away.  Living as a victim is taking a position where she’s given up and accepted being helpless.

Girls in all three relational aggression roles (bully, target, and bystander) can feel like victims.  When a girl thinks as a victim, she blames the outer circumstances for what is happening in her world.  It requires focus on unwanted things and prevents her from tapping into her natural state of being – that of a powerful creator.

Overcoming Victimhood

As we help girls move away from seeing themselves as victims in hurtful friendship situations, we need to help them take three important steps:

1.  Acknowledge their Emotions

Developing self awareness is key to shedding victimhood.  When girls learn to identify and name how they feel, they develop their emotional vocabulary.  Once they know how they feel, they’re well on their way to choosing their emotions on purpose, a powerful ability to have in life.

2.  Recognize the Choices They Have

Often girls feel boxed in by pressure from other girls, by fear, and by a perception of limited options.  When girls learn multiple strategies that prove to be effective in response to emotional bullying, they start to look for solutions that help them keep their dignity.

3.  Focus on What They Want, Not on What They Don’t Want

Living as a victim stems from a hard focus on unwanted people and situations.  When girls begin to seek out relationships that nourish them and begin to expect that good things will come their way, they shed the skin of victimhood and step into their own power.

Living as a victim serves as a learning experience.  By experiencing what we don’t want, we give birth to the seed of what we do want.  We have no choice in what happens to us.  We have 100% control of how we think and how we feel and what we do.  Our reaction determines the next set of circumstances we experience.  Being a victim is always a choice.

© 2010 A Way Through, LLC

WANT TO USE THIS ARTICLE IN YOUR EZINE OR WEB SITE? You can, as long as you include this complete blurb with it: Female friendship experts Jane Balvanz and Blair Wagner publish A Way Through, LLC’s Guiding Girls ezine. If you’re ready to guide girls in grades K – 8 through painful friendships, get your FREE mini audio workshop and ongoing tips now at

031610articleKids LOVE to play the Telephone Game! Each school year I’m eagerly asked when the game will be played. I use it as a classroom counseling lesson to help children understand the impact of gossip and rumors. It’s an excellent lesson for both boys and girls, because not only “mean girls” use these methods of emotional bullying. Boys have friendship problems and are targets of relational aggression, too. This year I added a twist and a tally with the Telephone Game. I added Part 2 to the classic game and tallied up the results. It proved illuminating for the kids and me while packing a wallop of understanding! 

The Two-Part Telephone Game

The traditional Telephone Game is played with a group of kids, preferably with a number between 15 – 25 participants. One person starts with a simple message and whispers it into the next person’s ear. The process continues until the last person announces the message she heard. The message is then compared to the original message. Of course, the final message has morphed from the original.

The Two-Part Telephone Game begins like the classic game. I start it with an emotionally charged message. With co-ed groups I like to use: It’s said that girls are smarter than boys (or vice versa). After the message travels through the group and the first and last messages are compared, I provide the following worksheet to the kids. This is Part 2.

Telephone Game: How Words Change Accidentally and On Purpose

Put a check mark by the numbers that best explain what happened to you when you played the telephone game.

  1. I listened the best I could.
  2. I was anxious to pass the information on, so I might not have listened the best I could.
  3. I asked for the words to be repeated when I couldn’t hear them.
  4. I got frustrated trying to figure out the message, so I passed along the words the best I could.
  5. I changed the message on purpose just for fun.
  6. I changed the message on purpose, because I thought the other person got the message wrong. I changed it to what I thought it should be.
  7. I didn’t want to pass the message along, because I didn’t think the message was correct.
  8. I thought the message was hurtful, but I passed the message on anyway.
  9. I thought the message was hurtful, so I changed the words.
  10. I only passed the message along, because I was forced to do so.

The students are NOT to put their names on their worksheets, because honest answers are desired. After collecting their completed work, I write the numbers 1 – 10 on the board and tally the check marks corresponding to each number. We then talk about gossip and rumors as they relate to each number.

Here’s a sample of what kids can learn with the Two-Part Telephone Game.

  • Some people like to listen to rumors and gossip.
  • Some people like to pass on gossip and rumors.
  • Information passed on may not be exactly the way things happened.
  • Messages change from person to person the more the story is told.
  • Some people are careful to get the information right and some people aren’t.
  • Even when people don’t understand the gossip or rumors, some people pass them along anyway.
  • There are different agendas for spreading gossip and rumors.
  • You may never know why a message changes from mouth to mouth.
  • Incorrect information gets passed along all the time.
  • It’s important to verify ANY second hand information.
  • Hurtful messages often travel faster than other information.

My students loved seeing the tallied results! It resulted in rich discussion. You can use this game with ages eight through adulthood. It works in classrooms, before and after school programs, sleepovers, sports groups, or anywhere a group of kids gather.

Let us know if you use the Two-Part Telephone Game, and tell us how it worked for you. Write a comment about it, and we will enter you in a drawing to win a “When Others Bully You” poster from A Way Through.  Drawing will be held on March 31.

© 2010 A Way Through, LLC

WANT TO USE THIS ARTICLE IN YOUR EZINE OR WEB SITE? You can, as long as you include this complete blurb with it: Female friendship experts Jane Balvanz and Blair Wagner publish A Way Through, LLC’s Guiding Girls ezine. If you’re ready to guide girls in grades K – 8 through painful friendships, get your FREE mini audio workshop and ongoing tips now at

Wrong Thing #1: Girls Aren’t Supposed to be Mean to Each Other

110309articleIt’s a common thought in parenting circles to think that girls shouldn’t treat each other this way.  Says whom?

Try this on… Girls should all get along perfectly, have exquisite emotional and social skills, and treat everyone with the utmost respect.  Can you hear violins playing sweetly in the background?

Yeah?  Well, here’s the deal.  It doesn’t work that way.  And, it’s not supposed to work that way.  Girls (like everyone else) are on this earth to maneuver through the contrast of our world (which is often sticky, and sometimes painful) to find what feeds their passion and to create joy in their lives.  In order to do that and to become clear about what they DO WANT, girls need to experience what they DON’T WANT.

When we help girls recognize that some friends will feel good to be with and others won’t, girls can begin to make choices based on their inner guidance system (emotions).  For myself, I’ve found the key to be a healthy combination of two things:

  • Lack of resistance (let others’ ugly behaviors roll off like water on a duck)
  • Conscious focus on what I want in my relationships

When I’m in that nonresistant, positive-focus zone, I find that beautiful people and experiences show up around every corner. Our work as girl guides is to help girls get into that zone.

Wrong Thing #2: Relational Aggression is Getting Worse and the World Is a Mess

With a little effort, we can find evidence to support any viewpoint on any topic.  There are certainly visible signs of problems in our world, and we see statistics on how emotional bullying is affecting girls in increasing numbers.  This is real.  And yet, we get more of what we pay attention to.

There is so much well-being in this world; it far outweighs the lack of well being.  When we look at relational aggression as an overwhelming, unsolvable problem, we add to the problem.  We can’t solve relational aggression (or any problem for that matter) from a place of fear and overwhelm.  Faith, curiosity, and optimism go much further.

Wrong Thing #3: Emotional Bullying Starts in Middle School

Yes, we see a peak of emotional bullying in the middle school years.  But, as any kindergarten (and even pre-school) teacher will tell you, it starts very, very young among girls.  Relational Aggression from a five-year old (“I won’t be your friend if you…”) may not be as sophisticated as from a thirteen-year old (“let’s start an I-Hate-Miranda web site”), but the pattern can and does begin in the pre-school years.

Savvy parents start very young guiding their daughters to connect with their personal power and to find and cultivate friendships that feel good.

Wise educators see relational aggression as an issue that needs to be addressed as young as kindergarten.  Schools that implement common language and strategies within their school community (and consistently teach these to the youngest of their students) will find they have less relational aggression among their female students as they head into their teens.

© 2009 A Way Through, LLC

WANT TO USE THIS ARTICLE IN YOUR EZINE OR WEB SITE? You can, as long as you include this complete blurb with it: Female friendship experts Jane Balvanz and Blair Wagner publish A Way Through, LLC’s Guiding Girls ezine. If you’re ready to guide girls in grades K – 8 through painful friendships, get your FREE mini audio workshop and ongoing tips now at

Bullying through words offers the target an element of existence. Bullying through exclusion and the silent treatment obliterates humanness.

When girls hurt girls, there is always hope for learning. I try to reframe emotional bullying occurrences for girls into opportunities for growth. This is never to minimize the bullying. Never. It is to hold open a space for learning and self-empowerment for the target. There is always a seed of knowledge to carry away. Always. As we guide girls, it’s important to help them build this cache of learning so they can navigate through life in a wiser way.

The Insiders/Outsiders Lesson

And there’s a “but” to this – but it’s sometimes difficult to find any helpful lesson. The times that tend to be most difficult, I find, are when girls experience exclusion through the silent treatment. I’ll show you how potent this combination is by telling you about a classroom counseling lesson I teach. I call it the Insiders and Outsiders. The last time I taught this lesson was with third and fourth graders, boys and girls together.

The Insiders, Part I

I start off by telling the class they are going to be actresses and actors today and tell everyone what part they are to play. I explain nothing is meant personally, and students are only doing what I tell them to do. This set-up is VERY important to protect the feelings of the participants. I then number the students off by ones and twos. The ones, the Insiders, stay inside the classroom, and the twos, the Outsiders, wait outside in the hallway. I tell the Insiders that the Outsiders will soon come into the room. They will try to become part of the Insider Group. The Insiders may decide to let an Outsider into their group if they choose. It’s their decision.

The Outsiders, Part 1

I then go out into the hall to let the Outsiders know what their role is. They are to try to get into the Insider group. They may be as sweet and kind as they wish. They may also promise anything they can think of whether they can deliver or not (think trip to Disney World, candy, money, etc.) They may not use any type of force.

The Process, Part I

The Outsiders then come in and have two minutes to try to talk their way into the Insider group. Nearly everyone makes it into the group the first time. The ones who don’t look frustrated, mad, or sad (even though they are reminded everyone is playing a part). The Outsiders return to the hallway, and the Insiders stay in their same places.

Part II

The Insiders get a new set of instructions. They are not to look at, speak to, or acknowledge the Outsiders in any way. To do this, which is hard for them, they may read or have conversations only with Insiders. The Outsiders are given the same instructions – try to talk your way into the group. Outsiders then enter the room and try for another two minutes to be included. No one gets into the Insiders group this time, though.

We Process

Question to the Outsiders: What was it like for you to try to get into the Insiders group the first time?

  • Fun! I got right in!
  • Sad. I never got in.
  • Frustrating. I had to promise to give them something to get into their group.

Question to the Insiders: What was this activity like for you the first time?

  • I liked it! It was fun keeping people out! (Someone always likes the powerful way they feel. Without adult guidance, some children become comfortable with this false sense of power in real life.)
  • It was fun, because I let my friends right in.
  • It was cool, because I got to decide who I let in.

Question to the Outsiders: What was it like for you the second time?

  • Sad. No one would look at me.
  • It was harder, because I couldn’t get anyone to talk to me.
  • I couldn’t get anyone to notice me.
  • It was like I was invisible, and I didn’t even get a chance.

Question to the Insiders: What was it like for you the second time?

  • I didn’t like it. I usually talk to people.
  • It was OK if I kept reading my book, but I really had to concentrate.
  • It was hard, because I couldn’t talk to my friends.

The Wrap Up

Here’s the outcome discussion of the activity. In real life, it’s sad to be excluded, especially when others can become part of a group but you can’t. It’s also degrading when you can’t be accepted for who you are, and you’re only included for what you have or who you pretend to be. It’s more difficult to belong, however, when no one is willing to talk to you or acknowledge your presence. When the silent treatment and exclusion happen over a length of time, you can come to believe they are worthless, hopeless, and insignificant.

Girls often use the combination of the silent treatment and exclusion to block out another girl. Exclusion happens as early as the preschool years, and around the third grade some become knowledgeable enough to use both together. If you are a teacher, counselor, or group leader, try the Insider/Outsider lesson to discuss the devastating effects of the silent treatment and exclusion. If you are a parent, try the activity with your daughter one-on-one. Let her be the Outsider twice and then switch roles. Discuss what it was like for both of you in each role.

Impress upon girls the importance of talking to an adult when they are excluded through the silent treatment, because it doesn’t take long for self-esteem to plummet. Girls will grow in resiliency when they understand they do not have to hang out with anyone who treats them this way.

© 2009 A Way Through, LLC

WANT TO USE THIS ARTICLE IN YOUR EZINE OR WEB SITE? You can, as long as you include this complete blurb with it: Female friendship experts Jane Balvanz and Blair Wagner publish A Way Through, LLC’s Guiding Girls ezine. If you’re ready to guide girls in grades K – 8 through painful friendships, get your FREE mini audio workshop and ongoing tips now at

Don’t Say How You Feel
“I feel scared when you threaten me.  I want you to be nice.”  Can you imagine a 7th grade girl saying this to another girl who has threatened her?  No?  Me neither.  That’s just not the way girls talk.  And, it would probably make the situation worse.

Educators have been teaching I-messages as a way of stating how you feel and what you want for a long time now.  “I feel _________ when you ________ because ___________.  I want ____________.”  Personally, I think that is a great thing – to be able to know how you feel and to be able to state it without antagonizing the other person.  How many adults do you know who can effectively do that?  And, to say what you want?  Woah!  I work with many adults who still haven’t figured that out.

So, what do we do with the I-Message?

Baby vs. Bath Water
Throughout my life, I’ve noticed that many hot topics generate staunch supporters and angry critics.  For some reason, people like to go this way or that.  Personally, I see lots of shades of grey when I look at the world.  I don’t believe in absolute right, wrong, good, or bad.  But what I do notice is that some ideas work in some situations, and some ideas work in others.  That is how it seems to be with I-Messages.  Let’s explore this without throwing the baby out… you know the rest of the saying!

When They Work, They Really Work
OK, so we agree that the previous I-Message wasn’t such a great example.  Now, listen to this one… A third grader says to her best friend, “I feel confused when you lie to me.  I want to be able to trust you.”  Wow!  That’s a home run.  You can bet her friend will sit up and listen to that.  And, if our girl is able to hold strong to this I-Message and stick with her position, I bet she’ll see a change in the lying.  If not, she then gets to choose if she wants to stay friends.  Either way, she solves her problem.

I-Messages work really well with third through fifth graders, especially if they are feeling confused, annoyed, mad, or betrayed.  They can memorize the format and will use it effectively.  Here are some situations where an I-Message may work well:  artificial bad memory, silent treatment, exclusion, gestures, gossip, manipulation, and possessiveness.  Generally, it’s best to stay away from an I-Message if you are feeling scared or frightened.

When you’re dealing with sixth through eighth grade girls, the I-Message format gets an eye-roll.  You know the kind!  Going with the “I feel— when you—” format often doesn’t feel natural for them.  Girls this age can learn to say how they feel and what they want in their own words.  For example, “Hannah, it seems like you’re mad at me, and I have no idea why.  I can’t read your mind.  What’s going on?”  Getting comfortable with speaking for herself will take lots of practice, and it really works when it’s said well.

Can you imagine this girl thirty years in the future saying, “I get grossed out when the toilet lid is up.  I’d like you to put it down when you’re done!”?

© 2009 A Way Through, LLC

WANT TO USE THIS ARTICLE IN YOUR EZINE OR WEB SITE? You can, as long as you include this complete blurb with it: Female friendship experts Jane Balvanz and Blair Wagner publish A Way Through, LLC’s Guiding Girls ezine. If you’re ready to guide girls in grades K – 8 through painful friendships, get your FREE mini audio workshop and ongoing tips now at

When Girls Hurt Girls™:  5 Key Strategies for Preparing Your Girl(s) to Diffuse Friendship Drama

Do you find it frustrating to watch your girl(s) continue to struggle with hurtful friendships, getting lost in emotional quicksand, and being unable to participate fully in school, activities, and life in general? 

On September 23, 2009, at 5 PM Eastern, A Way Through, LLC is hosting a free teleclass for parents and educators of girls in grades kindergarten through grade 8.  This teleclass will offer insights based on brain research and provide proven strategies you can use immediately to help your girl(s) to solve their own friendship problems as they start the new school year.

On the call, you’ll learn:

  •  3 strategies for preparing girls for relational aggression situations
  •  What brain research tells us
  •  3 ingredients that must be present to solve a  friendship problem
  •  5 role playing tips
  •  How to help girls who witness others being targeted

Register for this free teleclass online at

Share this with your colleagues and parents, too!

We’ll “see you” on the call.

Female bullyingIt’s Serious, Not Silly
How many of you have heard this comment regarding how girls treat each other… “You know, girls will be girls.” Well, listen up! Over 25% of girls are in immediate danger from self-mutilation, eating disorders, violence, depression, or suicide.* That’s a fourth of our girls! A fourth! Emotional bullying is a major contributor to this situation. And, it doesn’t have to be this way.

Normal vs. Natural
Here’s the thing. While relational aggression may seem normal, it is certainly not natural. Normal is conforming to the standard. Natural is free from affectation or constraint. Girls are natural communicators. They are tuned in to emotional and social nuances. Their brains are hard-wired this way and that is how they are born. Relational savviness is natural. What has unfortunately become normal is using this natural ability in a twisted way to protect oneself.

Ignorance of the Consequences
“If you play with her, I won’t be your friend” in kindergarten may sound innocuous. However, if left untended, this pattern can eventually become, “you’re not wanted here. Why don’t you just commit suicide?”

The Good News
There is good news! Girls who learn to use their natural emotional and social ability to create friendships that feel good no longer need to hurt others. When girls are taught to tune in to their emotional guidance system, which tells them which people, situations, activities, etc. feel “right,” they learn to trust themselves. When they trust themselves and are given tools for handling uncomfortable or even horrific friendship situations, their natural relational ability kicks in, and they become wise friendship problem-solvers.

Tools for Girls
So what are these tools? Here are a few that I have found to have a huge impact in working with girls suffering from relational aggression:

  • Scripts – lots and lots of examples of words to say to other girls who have hurt her (in every friendship situation imaginable)
  • A tape recorder – to listen to herself as she practices the scripts (tone is more important than getting the words just right)
  • Multiple strategies to choose from – everything from ignore to agree to distract (with specifics and good examples of how to do these)
  • Feeling finder charts – to help her increase her emotional vocabulary
  • Touchstones – to have a physical item to keep her grounded and centered (e.g., friendship jewelry, inspirational coins, etc.)

Girls Will Be Girls
Here’s my version of “girls will be girls”…

  • “I saw how she spilled your drink on purpose. I’m sorry that happened to you.”
  • “I’ve noticed they aren’t speaking to you. Would you like to sit with me at lunch?”
  • “Are you OK?”
  • “I’m not really good at the rumor thing. Let’s talk about something else.”
  • “I know you like to do things with just me. I like that too, and I like to do things with other friends too. That won’t change our friendship.”

You get the idea.

I love girls. I love how they’re made. I love how they think. I love how they see things. I love how they giggle. I prefer to focus on the natural version of “girls will be girls” rather than what has often become normal.

*Hinshaw and Kranz (2009)

© 2009 A Way Through, LLC

WANT TO USE THIS ARTICLE IN YOUR EZINE OR WEB SITE? You can, as long as you include this complete blurb with it: Female friendship experts Jane Balvanz and Blair Wagner publish A Way Through, LLC’s Guiding Girls ezine. If you’re ready to guide girls in grades K – 8 through painful friendships, get your FREE mini audio workshop and ongoing tips now at

Last week we had our school’s ice cream social and meet the teacher night. There was such excitement as students raced around to find out whether they got the “right” teacher and if their friends were in their class.

Kindergarteners marched in with their parents, behind them if they were wary and ahead if they were excited. I like to watch this rite of passage. The kindergarteners start school with clean slates. No one really knows them. These students basically are happy little people, and as a teacher friend of mine once said, “They smell like milk!” They love school, the teacher, the kids, the crayons, and everything in the whole wide world. They are curious little sponges absorbing everything they can.

I like that they start the school year with a clean slate. I wish that for all students of all ages. We have memories, however, which can either be friend or foe. On the friend side, they us let us recall pleasant experiences or caution us to be careful in certain situations. On the foe side, they hold onto negative experiences without factoring in changes as time passes. It’s the foe side that keeps us stuck, doesn’t allow us to clean our slate. and refuses to let others clean theirs.

If your daughter was involved in a relational aggression incident in school last year – be it as bully, target, or bystander – help her start the new school year with a clean slate. We’ve provided three conversation starters you may want to use with your daughter for her unique situation(s).

  1. If you were a bully, remember that everyone makes mistakes. If you have apologized, made amends, and changed your ways, go back to school with your head held high. Other girls may need time to trust you. Continue to treat others the way you want to be treated. You will attract old or new friends this way. What do you feel about this?
  2. If you were a bystander who backed a bully or didn’t help the target, learn from your mistakes. If you learned that it’s not OK to support a bully or that you should help a target when you safely can, celebrate! Plan to be a Positive Active Bystander™, a bystander that helps instead of hurts. When you can do this, it shows just how much courage you have. That’s something you can be proud of! Since everyone is a bystander at some time, what ideas can you think of to help yourself become a Positive Active Bystander?
  3. If you were a target, you may have many different feelings. Sometimes targets feel ashamed, like they are weak or that it’s their fault they were bullied. Remember that no one can make someone bully another person. The bully makes the choice. You are not responsible for others’ choices. If you have learned to stick up for yourself or ask for help when needed, you are one wise girl. What advice do you have for other girls who may become a target of bullying?

 Best wishes for a great school year!

A Way Through, LLC is having a contest! To win a When Girls Hurt Girls™ parent pack from the age group of your choice, simply write a comment  about this blog post in the box below called “leave a reply” and click the submit comment button.  We will draw for the winner and their name will be announced when we publish our next Guiding Girls ezine.

© 2009 A Way Through, LLC

WANT TO USE THIS ARTICLE IN YOUR EZINE OR WEB SITE? You can, as long as you include this complete blurb with it: Female friendship experts Jane Balvanz and Blair Wagner publish A Way Through, LLC’s Guiding Girls ezine. If you’re ready to guide girls in grades K – 8 through painful friendships, get your FREE mini audio workshop and ongoing tips now at

How Should a Girl Respond to an Emotional Bully?

Let’s say you’re in a meeting at work and a co-worker rolls her eyes when you offer a suggestion to a problem your team is discussing.  You’re tired of her constant non-verbal abuse and you decide to address her.  Do you know what you’d say?  What tone of voice would you use?  What emotion would you portray as you walk up to her?  This situation is stressful enough to make even the most socially savvy adult break into a sweat.  Can you imagine doing it when you are nine years old?  Or 13 years old?

Pay Attention to Words, Tone of Voice, and Emotion

Girls struggle with how to respond when they are on the receiving end of hurtful friendship behaviors.  After facilitating hundreds of friendship role plays between girls, I’ve noticed three keys to successfully delivering a message that maintains dignity and diffuses the situation:  words, tone of voice, and emotion.

The Right Words

Girls’ tendencies are to immediately focus on the words they’ll say.  That’s great, and it can be really helpful to practice saying what they want to say.  The best word choices tend to name the hurtful behavior and focus on themselves, offering the other girl a way to back out of future aggression.  Let’s revisit the eye-rolling example above…  “I’ve noticed when I offer suggestions in our team meetings that you roll your eyes.  I’m wondering what’s up between us?”

Tone of Voice

How many ways can you say the word “so?”  Try saying it with these tones of voice:  sarcasm, fear, curiosity, aggression, confusion.  You know the old saying… It’s not what you say; it’s how you say it.


This key really should be first, but oftentimes it helps girls to think through what they’re going to say and how they’re going to say it.  Now, before they open their mouths, they need to understand that they can choose their emotion.  This is a concept many adults find difficult to understand, and it is challenging for girls to get it too.  Let me say it again…  YOU CAN CHOOSE YOUR EMOTIONS!  No one else can make you mad.  Or sad.  Or disappointed.  You make you mad, sad, or disappointed.  By helping our girls learn to manage their emotions and come to discover that our response is our response, we help them to distinguish between what happened, how we feel about it, and what emotion we choose.  From that place, a girl chooses her emotion in addition to her words and her tone of voice.  Then when she grows up and enters the workplace, she’ll know exactly how to handle that difficult co-worker – with dignity and grace.

© 2009 A Way Through, LLC

WANT TO USE THIS ARTICLE IN YOUR EZINE OR WEB SITE? You can, as long as you include this complete blurb with it: Female friendship experts Jane Balvanz and Blair Wagner publish A Way Through, LLC’s Guiding Girls ezine. If you’re ready to guide girls in grades K – 8 through painful friendships, get your FREE mini audio workshop and ongoing tips now at

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