I was in the waiting area at H&R Block the other day waiting to get my taxes done. There was a Seventeen Magazine lying on a chair and I picked it up and started flipping through it. The one thing that grabbed my attention was a quiz called What Draws You In? This is geared towards girls fighting within their “crew” or clique. Two members of the group will be in a fight. There are other bystanders who are left wondering what happened in the first place for a fight to erupt.
This quiz has three categories for results. The first is “you love the attention.” This describes the person who draws themselves into the middle of the conflict to gain attention from everyone. Play mediator yet by placing themselves there, they are only keeping the drama fueled. Another result is “you want to feel needed.” Members will get involved to be the support system for their friends. However, this only leaves the person feeling abandoned once the fight is over. The final result is “you want to bond” meaning the group member will take a side and be close in the moment to one of the two friends. However, this bonding is only occurring during the negative and not the positive stuff.
I am sure that whoever created this quiz was well meaning as it was geared towards helping teen girls deal with these situations. I commend the person who created this as I know their heart was in the right place. However, I want to take it up a notch. By even encouraging this in the first place, we are only fueling teen girls to behave this way in conflict. Why does there have to be a middle man? Do they have to take sides? Is playing “therapist” really helping the conflict or confusing the whole group as to where you stand? My response to this quiz is that bystanders get together and help their two friends work the conflict out. Take both parties aside and get to the bottom of the story and talk it out. Get together in a group and talk it out. Why is that so hard? The problem is over a boy? Maybe the group can try and remember that guys will come and go but friends can last forever and no guy should come between them? Or if it is over clothes or an item, talk it out and figure out who can borrow what at a particular time. Most importantly, why does there even have to be a clique? Groups are fine as long as they are not exclusive. I do not encourage clique behavior at all as it is hurtful and destructive.
I am sure people will think I am naïve in speaking this. Believe me I am not. Teens are self centered but also have the capabilities to talk their problems out in a rational manner. I have seen it done with my own two eyes. What teens do not understand is that by feeding into these three areas of conflict, they only increase the drama and the problem only grows worse and not better. These three areas are a part of relational aggression. Its important that they do know this. Fighting between teen girls is normal. Handling the problem in these three areas only makes the problem worse and this is what teens do need to understand. If it helps, get an impartial adult to help mediate in the problem solving. The bottom line is that conflict is not healthy. Friendships form out of mutual interests and these are important during the teen years. Keep the situation real but deal with it in a healthy manner for everyone. At the end of the day, we all need our friends.
Elizabeth Bennett is the author, consultant and speaker for Peer Abuse Know More! Bullying From a Psychological Perspective and resides in Los Angeles, California