Whenever we picture a "mean girl", we imagine a young woman who is calling people names and shouting "You can't sit with us!" in the school cafeteria.
This is a very basic, very simply version of the antagonistic behavior we see from women when they aggress. Because when women become more skilled in their ways of causing emotional harm, she uses something that friendship expert Danielle Bayard Jackson has coined "sophisticated stealth".
What is sophisticated stealth?
Sophisticated stealth is when a person uses covert tactics to hurt someone while also maintaining the appearance of being cooperative. It requires emotional intelligence, a careful calculation.
The word "sophisticated" is used because this kind of aggression is a part of a system that requires complexity in its approach. It is also "stealthy" because a part of its effectiveness is that fact that it's undetectable to others.
What are some examples of sophisticated stealth?
When you were in the third grade, you were probably no stranger to watching girls call each other names and whisper ugly things about each other in private. But it is an elementary, uncomplicated way of aggressing with other girls.
Sophisticated stealth lives underground.
So instead of saying, "Tanya's a (w)itch!" which is obvious and explicit, but sophisticated might packages gossip as simply presenting a "genuine concern".
Another example is pointing out something small that she knows you're insecure about in front of other people, but when you call her out on it, she says she doesn't know what you're talking about. This makes you look neurotic and oversensitive, and it makes her the woman who's been falsely accused.
Why do women use sophisticated stealth?
There are many reasons why someone might feel compelled to use these tactics.
While there are some women who do this frequently and without delight-- out of a genuine delight in humiliating others-- the average woman doesn't operate this way on the daily.
While we often vilify the "mean girl", the truth is that many of us have used the tools in her bag when we felt the situation called for it.
Maybe we felt insecure, or feared that one of our friendships was in jeopardy. Maybe we lacked the conflict resolution skills necessary to address an issue with someone in a healthy, assertive way. Maybe we feel pressured by the cultural expectation for women to be "nice", and don't want to risk the social consequences of speaking directly for fear of being seen as a difficult woman.
Danielle addresses the ideas of relational aggression and sophisticated stealth (including what to do if it's happening to you!) in her upcoming book.
Be the first one to know when the book drops so you can better understand the mechanics of female friendship. (Those on the waitlist will receive a special bonus!)
If you can't wait that long, then sign up for a one-on-one session with Danielle or book her to speak at your next conference or event.
To watch a video about sophisticated stealth, check out Danielle's recent video.