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What is Relational Aggression?

Relational aggression is behavior that is meant to hurt someone by manipulating their relationships with other people. This can be nonverbal, verbal, or physical.  It can include building alliances (getting other people to join in on the bullying), teasing, put-downs, spreading rumors and gossip and cyber-bullying.

Many girls have played the role of the mean girl, bystander and target of relational aggression, all within the same period of time. Though relational and physical aggression among girls happens a lot, it doesn’t mean that it’s OK or normal. You have the ability to change your own behavior and influence those around you in a positive way, choose your friendships, take a break from them or even end them.

If you are being bullied by a mean girl:

Talk to someone – maybe you just want someone to listen to you – your mom, dad, sister, cousin, aunt, school teacher or counselor.

But if you want help, make it clear what you need. If you don’t get the help you want or need, try talking to someone else who will give it to you.

Surround yourself with people, activities and things that make you feel good.  Make a list to draw from when you need to.

If you choose to talk it out with the mean girl, here are some suggestions:

  • Write down what you want to say. This can include the things that bothered you, why they bothered you, and what you want to happen.
  • First practice by yourself or with a trusted adult, then
  • Request a private meeting in a safe place, and say what you practiced in a calm and confident manner.

If you are a bystander (witnesses bullying by a mean girl), there are many ways to show you care about a person who is being hurt:

  • Stand up for her
  • Sit with her at lunch
  • Make plans with her
  • Tell her how unfair you think it is that someone is being mean
  • Just don’t participate–walk away–when someone is being mean


Chances are most people agree with you that what is happening is wrong. If you show that you will not go along with it, most of them will follow you rather than the mean girl!

If you are being a mean girl:

Take a quiet moment to think about why you are doing what you’re doing. Sometimes feelings of anger, hurt or jealousy can make girls do mean things to one another. Acknowledging these feelings, either to yourself or out loud to someone else, can be very honest and helpful.

Next time, before you say or do something mean:

  • Slow down and think it through.
  • Stop.
  • Cool down and recognize what you are feeling.
  • Analyze the situation.
  • Communicate assertively, not aggressively.


If you realize that you have been mean and want to make it right, consider the following action plan:

  • Take responsibility for your actions.
  • Acknowledge what you are responsible for.
  • Understand what you did and how it was hurtful.
  • Apologize, without insulting or accusing the person you are apologizing to.


Some stuff we share with girls in our workshops:

Try these activities if you need to cool down.

Try these strategies if you want to avoid a fight.