Nearly everyone had the unfortunate experience of interacting with or having to deal with mean girls growing up. It's almost a rite of passage. Even if they didn't really bully you or boss you around, chances are you at least knew who they were. And though there are a ton of things that so-called "mean girls" do wrong, of course — bullying isn't OK at any age — there are also some unexpected things "mean girls" are actually doing right (and we can all learn from) that you may have overlooked when in the thick of it in elementary, middle, or high school.
Although some of the skills they use and things that they might be doing right are things that, generally speaking, you might be able to put to work in your own life, it's probably not a good idea to full-on emulate junior high mean girls. "I would not necessarily encourage other girls or women to emulate the behaviors of a 'mean girl,'" Carolyn Robistow, LPC, a licensed professional counselor, tells Romper by email. "While it can be tempting to copy her and use the same tactics to climb the social ladder, the power gained at the top is often more fear-based than confident, and is not sustainable in healthy ways for the long term. It is not unusual for a 'mean girl' to feel isolated and alone because of her awareness that many of the people who are 'close' to her are only there in order to protect themselves and not to provide her with true connections and support."
You're better off using these sorts of skills for good, rather than to rule over those in your life through fear. "[I]f society wanted to encourage more girls to use 'mean girl' skills, the message would need to very clearly and specifically reflect the need for these skills to be used to increase empathy, meaningful connections, healthy boundaries, and relationships where both parties' voices are equally valued in the partnership rather than used to manipulate," Robistow says.
Keeping that in mind when deciding how to interact with people or while counseling the younger girls in your life might help make things better for everyone. "Mean girl" skills aren't necessarily all bad, you just have to be very careful and cognizant of how you're using them — for good, not terror or pain.
1. They're Acting In What They Think Are Everyone's Best Interests
Oftentimes, "mean girls" think they know what's best for more than just themselves and act accordingly. While this can sometimes have a sort of dark side (their tactics aren't always exactly empowering or kind), it's generally something that they're doing right.
"I've seen them use their influence to host wildly successful fundraisers, to help girls in lower social statuses to rise (think Clueless and the project of helping the new girl learn the ropes), and advocate for themselves and others when they feel circumstances aren't right [or] fair (which is often interpreted by adults as "'having too much attitude')," Robistow says.
2. They're Assertive
These kinds of girls also tend to be fairly assertive and, in a world where far too many women apologize when they bump into an inanimate object or say nothing when their ideas are being publicly shot down or ridiculed at work, a little assertiveness isn't all bad.
Lynn R. Zakeri, LCSW, a clinical therapist, tells Romper by email that "mean girls" often have "...the self-respect and assertive skills to address passive aggressive or rude behaviors even to their closest friends."
3. They Use Their Strengths
Robistow says that she believes that one of the things that so-called "mean girls" do best is "...use their strengths to make an impact." They know where their talents lie and know what sorts of things that they do work and don't work and pair those things together to maximize their effect.
4. They Can Take Charge Of A Situation
These kinds of girls know how to take charge and that can be a good thing if done correctly. Dr. Urszula Klich, PhD, BCB, a licensed clinical psychologist, tells Romper by email that parents can help their girls develop this skill and use it appropriately, rather than meanly.
"If they have siblings or even if its just Mom or Dad, give them a chance to be leader and led," Klich says. "You might do this by having days or afternoons when they run the household and make age appropriate decisions and times that its clear you do. Help them transition this into their social group."
Having the ability to take charge, but also sit back when need be can come in handy no matter your age.
5. They're Super Observant
These kinds of girls are also often pretty observant. Unfortunately, all too often, they use this skill to gossip and tear people down, but when used correctly, this is a useful skill to have. "The key is to help them turn their observations into something positive and use more appreciative terms," Klich says.
6. They Can Read A Person Or A Room
Being able to read a person or a room and understand what they're thinking or feeling or what they want out of a given situation is a skill that not everyone has. And in some cases it can allow you to do a lot of good. "Mean girls" don't tend to use it this way, however.
"The ability to read a person or situation and respond accordingly is an incredible asset in relationships and in connecting with others," Robistow says. "Unfortunately, for 'mean girls,' the skill is often used to manipulate a situation or person (whether intentionally or out of fear). However, turning that ability into a way to increase empathy for others and bring about change in a school's culture would be a wonderful way to utilize the same skill."
7. They're Bossy
Bossy girls (or anyone else who's bossy) often act that way so as to exert some control over a given situation or set of circumstances. Klich says that these controlling skills can sometimes be relearned or channeled into organizational skills. Being controlling or exclusionary, of course, are not good and are not OK, but learning how to organize and lead can serve them well throughout their lives, so long as they're benevolent leaders and leave their "mean girl" identity behind them.