What’s your effect on others?
Have you ever thought about the long-lasting impact of your words and actions? Because of you, people can feel empowered and loved, but also insecure and hurt. Even the smallest words and actions, whether online or in person, can have a big effect. Watch how we surprised teens at a career counseling session with a message from the future.
Be the change
Take a minute to ask yourself—what impact are my actions having? Most of us are well-intentioned and try to do the right thing, but nobody's perfect. Even small missteps can have consequences that we don't expect.
Use the cards below to gut check your behaviors and get tips on how to use your words and actions to support those around you.
Do you make a point to share encouraging words with others, even if you think they don't need it?
Nicely done! Sometimes people can be struggling even when you don't realize it. Even a small word of encouragement can have a greater impact than you realize and can help build your reputation as a positive person.
Even a small word of encouragement can completely change somebody's day. Next time you think a positive thought about someone, make a point to tell them. Send them a note, a text, an email, or give them a call. You never know the impact it could have, especially if they are feeling alone or picked on.
Have you excluded someone from an activity, gathering, or conversation in a way that might have hurt their feelings?
There's nothing wrong with outgrowing relationships, but purposely excluding someone from a party, group text, lunch table, or conversation can make them feel isolated and alone. Before excluding someone from a group or activity, consider how it might make them feel. If you are excluding them just to keep them out of a clique, it might be a good time to rethink your motivations.
Sounds like you’re a supportive person! It's normal for relationships to evolve and change, and sometimes there’s pressure from others to leave someone out. Remember, you will always be respected if you continue to be kind, even if you are less close with someone.
You get it
Do you regularly think about someone else's experience and feelings even if they’re different from your own?
Awesome! Sometimes it’s hard to be empathetic, but thinking about someone else’s feelings and experiences can help them to feel understood. It also helps you stand out as a great friend.
Building compassion for someone can make them feel understood and supported. Consider asking questions to get to know their world a little better. Who are their friends? What is their family like? When are they happiest? How do they handle challenges?
"Did you see…?"
Have you ever shared someone’s photos, text messages, or social media posts behind their back?
We live in a culture of sharing and it can be tempting to forward along a photo, text message or post that someone else shared. Before you do this, think about whether it could be hurtful or humiliating. If you think there’s even a tiny chance this could be the case, ask yourself “Why am I showing this to someone else?” and “How would it make them feel if they knew I was sharing their message?”
That’s great! Can you inspire others to do the same? What would happen if everyone thought about the feelings of the person they are posting about before it becomes public?
Do you go out of your way to let people know you’re available to listen, especially if they’re going through a tough time or need extra support?
Keep it up and keep checking in! It's always a good idea to make sure your friends and family know they can rely on you, even if everyone seems to be doing fine. You never know who might need to be supported.
Totally get it. This can be awkward at first. Sometimes, it’s hard for people to reach out when they need help, but that’s often when they need it most! Make the first move and let them know you’re always available if they need to talk. It can be just the ticket to help them start an important conversation and feel supported as they work through challenges.
Call out culture
Have you joined in on calling someone out publicly or turned against someone, even if you weren’t sure it was justified?
This can be tricky. While it’s important to hold people accountable for their actions, ganging up on someone can really damage their self esteem, and can also make them lash out more. Instead, try to talk with them one on one to help them understand their mistake and how to do better next time. And, if you see other people turning on someone, avoid jumping on the bandwagon. Just think about how you would feel if you were the person everyone turned on.
Way to take the high road! If a person does something that you don't agree with, they’ll usually be more receptive to your feedback if you address them directly, rather than calling them out publicly.
Do your friends and peers consider you open and non-judgmental?
Awesome - you’re doing something that many people aren’t! You’re the type of person who talks about your observations and feelings instead of judging others from the get go. Nicely done.
Coming from a place of judgment can feel threatening to others, even if you don't mean anything by it. There is a simple solution for this one. When sharing your thoughts, try starting with, "I feel..." or "In my experience...". This way, you shift from passing judgment, to simply sharing your observations.
"I was just kidding"
Have you ever joked around with someone (either verbally or physically) and realized it might have hurt them in a way you didn't intend?
It happens. Sometimes even when we mean to be funny, a joke goes too far and can become hurtful. Next time, consider the impact of your actions. Before sharing your joke, think about what it would feel like to be on the receiving end.
Keep up the good work! By thinking through jokes before you make them, you’re setting a great example for others and showing them how you want to be treated.
Have you ever helped a person who maybe didn’t have a lot of friends, feel supported and less alone?
Do you know what the happiest people have in common? A strong community of support. You get that. Help to make others happy by reaching out to people who appear to be alone. Don't forget to look beyond your own group of friends, for people that may not have one at all. You might make a new friend along the way.
Feeling isolated isn’t fun. If you notice someone who seems alone or like they don't have a lot of support, invite them to have lunch with you, say hello in the hallway, or have a conversation and get to know them. Who knows, you might even make a new friend!
Have you ever insulted or picked on someone regularly, even if you weren’t sure why?
Being picked on for any reason never feels good. In any situation, there are better solutions than name calling or making fun of someone. By choosing not to pick on someone, you’re not only looking out for others, but also setting an example for how you’d want to be treated in the same situation.
Nice. It sounds like you know how to feel good about yourself without making people feel bad about themselves. Keep being that light for others! And if you see someone being picked on, go the extra step, reach out and show your support.
"I hear you"
Do you regularly listen to others without interjecting your opinion?
Impressive. Listening to others without inserting your option and judgment isn't easy! But it's a great thing to do because it can help people open up and build trust. Sometimes just listening to someone makes them feel supported and heard.
This is hard for everyone! But inserting our own thoughts without fully listening can make someone feel dismissed or misunderstood. One helpful trick is to repeat back to them exactly what they just told you. Or follow up with a question, rather than your opinion. You'll be surprised how good it will make that person feel to be heard.
Adding to the drama
Have you contributed to an argument that became too intense or went further than intended?
Let’s face it - arguments happen and sometimes things get heated quickly. In these moments, instead of calling people names or attacking them personally, stay focused on the point you are trying to make and use evidence and examples. If a debate starts to become hostile and personal, it’s always okay to take a break or walk away.
Way to keep your cool. Learning to accept and discuss differences in opinion is a skill that will come in handy throughout your life. Keep it up!
Have you ever seen someone being attacked online or in person but weren't sure how to stand up for them?
This can be tough, but know that you have options beyond direct intervention. You can send a private message showing your support or report the behavior to a teacher, advisor, or online administrator. No matter what you do, doing something can make a big difference in helping someone else feel supported.
It’s great that you feel like you know what to do. Next time you see someone being attacked online, take a moment to think through all your options. Do you think it’s best to intervene directly, send a private message, or report the attacker? What would you want someone to do for you?