Dealing with Unkindness



1. Be careful with criticism.
Here are the general rules for criticism:
– Is it true?
– Is it helpful?
– Is it kind?

2.Don’t confuse gossip with clarification.
Gossip is talking about negative things about someone when they are
not present. It is used to psychologically help people form a bond against
others; it helps create an “us against the world” mentality. It destroys
empathy and compassion and builds exclusivity. People use it to make them-
selves feel more important and more righteous.
Clarification can include talking about negative things but it is done for
a different purpose. It is done when someone truly wants to know how to
appropriately and kindly deal with a situation or person. It is important
to have someone whom you trust and respect so that you can ask for
clarification when you are frustrated or hurt or confused.

3. Learn healthy ways to bond with people.
Talk about activities or ideas. Do things together. Tell about postive
things that have happened in your day. Notice the kindnesses of others.

4. Don’t tell jokes that make fun of others.
You may tell jokes that make fun of yourself.

5. Learn to be interested in other people and other ways of life.
Think like a scientist. Listen to people talk and observe the different ways
they live. Then, try to figure out what values are being shown. Decide whether or not you agree with those values before you decide to be friends with someone.


1. Decide what kind of relationships you want to have with others.
Remember that sometimes you can’t do the right thing and still be liked.
Decide what is important to you. Be clear about your own values.
Only have relationships with others if they allow you to honour your values.

2. Generally, avoid people who make it difficult for you to honour your values. At recess and lunch and in other social settings, plan ahead. Decide what
you will do and where you will go so you don’t drift into an unhealthy group.

3. When unkind remarks are said about someone not present, decide on the wisest course of action:

a. silently walk away

b. speak up with a postive remark
e.g. “Well, I have a happy story to tell about that person…”
“I’ve noticed some very good things about that person…”

c. speak up for your values
e.g. “I really like you and enjoy spending time with you, but I don’t
like talking about negative things about other people. Could
we talk about something else, or should I leave?”
e.g. “Are you asking for my advice in this situation or are you venting
your annoyance? I’m not a good person to vent to. Maybe you
can go and find someone else.”
e.g. “I’m not perfect myself, so I don’t see any point in complaining
about how others aren’t perfect.”
e.g. “You sound like you want to know what to do about the situation.
Who could you go to for advice?”
e.g. “I don’t enjoy making fun of other people. It doesn’t make me feel
happy. Shall I leave or can we talk about something else?”
e.g. “Well, let me tell you about my own faults.” Then proceed to
criticize yourself and tell about the things that frustrate
you about yourself. Ask the other person for advice.
e.g. “You think that person isn’t very smart? Well, I think that
kindness is more important than intelligence and I’ve noticed
that person is very kind.”

d. counteract with addressing the unspoken complaint
e.g. “You sound frustrated. What’s bothering you?”
e.g. “This really seems to bother you. How come?”

4. When unkind remarks are said about someone present, choose a course of action:
a. turn to the person being criticized and say, “Shall we go somewhere else?”

b. counteract with a positive remark
e.g. “But you are so good at being friendly. I like you.”
e.g. “But I notice you never make fun of others. That’s a really good
quality in a person.”

c. counteract with the truth
e.g. “That is not true.”
e.g. “That is none of your business.”
e.g. “That is a very mean thing to say.”

d. counteract with addressing the unspoken complaint
e.g. “You sound frustrated. What’s bothering you?”
e.g. “This really seems to bother you. How come?”

[This page may be copied for use with students if the following credit is provided:
©2008 Sophie Rosen.]

Your Comments!

Everyone on earth agrees. You should treat others the way you want to be treated. The Golden Rule by Ilene Cooper is a picture book about a grandfather teaching his grandson about the golden rule, which is a simple rule but not an easy one. I think it is important because if everyone did the golden rule there would be no war and no one would hurt each other. I recommend this book for people who don’t know about the golden rule. (Teague in gr.  2)

Very good advice. Indeed, it is impossible to avoid gossip in middle school. I really like the first three points about criticism, because often I find criticism isn’t for the sake of helping someone do better; sometimes you just say it to point out the flaws in others for no reason whatsoever. (Laura in gr. 7)

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