Ep. 51 – Saoirse, Age 8: Mean comment said behind her back

Dealing with hearsay

Kids Ask Dr. Friendtastic
Kids Ask Dr. Friendtastic
Ep. 51 – Saoirse, Age 8: Mean comment said behind her back
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Scroll down for DISCUSSION QUESTIONS & TRANSCRIPT

Think About It Questions

  • Have you ever been in a situation where you found out that someone was saying something mean about you behind your back? What were they saying? How did you handle it?
  • Why does Dr. Friendtastic say it’s freeing to realize that what people say about you when you’re not around is none of your business? (Hint: What are some possible downsides of always trying to find out what people are saying about you when you’re not there?)
  • How does repeating someone’s mean comment to someone else spread meanness? 
  • What are some good ways that you’re “weird” (i.e., different from other kids you know)?

Transcript

Hi, there! I’m Dr. Eileen Kennedy-Moore, also known as Dr. Friendtastic. I’m an author and clinical psychologist based in Princeton, NJ.

Here’s today’s question:

Hi, I’m Saoirse, and I am 8 years old. My friend told me that her friend said she thinks I'm weird. I feel left out and different. What do I do?

Hi, Saorise, thanks for sending in this question! It sure doesn’t feel good to find out that someone is talking negatively about you behind your back! I imagine hearing about this comment might have made you worry, “Wait, am I really weird? What’s weird about me? Does everybody think I’m weird?”

The first piece of advice I have for you is difficult but important: Keep in mind that what people say about you when you’re not around is none of your business. 

Now you’re probably thinking, “What?! Of course it’s my business! They’re talking about me!” 

But see here’s the problem: You can’t control what other people think or say, and they’re entitled to have private opinions, even about you. 

Unless someone says something to you directly, you don’t have to deal with it. Realizing this is freeing!  

You don’t want to spend your whole life constantly on guard thinking, “Are they talking about me? What are they saying about me?” because that will make you miserable! And it won’t help. People are going to think what they think.

Also, indirect communication, where someone reports what someone else said, is very likely to lead to misunderstandings. Have you ever played the game telephone? One person whispers something into someone’s ear, who whispers it to someone else, who whispers it to someone else, and so on, and pretty soon, the message becomes completely unrecognizable. 

You don’t know exactly what this girl said or what she meant because you weren’t there. You don’t know the context of the conversation or the tone of voice for this comment. Maybe the girl was kidding. Maybe it was just a passing thought. It’s possible she said it then but doesn’t think it now. 

Confronting the other girl by saying, “I heard you said I’m weird!” is not going to make her like you more. She might feel embarrassed and yell at you or argue that she didn’t say that or didn’t mean it–which could be true. 

So how could you respond when a friend reports someone else’s mean comment? My suggestion is just to shrug and say, “Oh, well.” If it’s important, that kid can say it to your face. Otherwise, ignore it. 

My second piece of advice is really more for your friend, but also for you, if you get into a similar situation: Be careful not to spread meanness. I’m sure your friend thought she was being loyal to you by reporting what the other girl said, but she ended up upsetting you and making you like the other girl less. And if the other girl finds out, she’d definitely be mad at your friend for blabbing and stirring up trouble.

When we repeat mean comments we give them a bigger, longer life. If, instead, your friend had responded to the first girl calling you weird by saying, “Well, I think she’s fun!” or even just “Hmmm,” then that comment would have just faded away. 

One more thing I want to talk about is your concern about maybe being weird. Think for a moment, what are some other words that mean the same as weird? Interesting, unique, remarkable, outstanding, extraordinary. Wow! I’d sure like to get to know someone with those qualities! 

We don’t know what that girl meant when she called you weird, and it really doesn’t matter. We all have qualities that make us unique and different. I think that’s a good thing! 

This has been Kids Ask Dr. Friendtastic. If you have a question about making and keeping friends that you’d like me to answer, go to DrFriendtastic.com, and click on the podcast tab to see how to submit your question. 

Do you want to learn even more about friendship? Check out my funny and practical books for kids: Growing Friendships: A Kids’ Guide to Making and Keeping Friends, and my new book, Growing Feelings: A Kids’ Guide to Dealing with Emotions About Friends and Other Kids. They’re available through your library or wherever you buy books.

OR find them on your favorite podcast platform!