Direct. Honest. Fierce. What could happen if we were all like that?

by Lorin Phillips

Recently, I was taking a walk in the sun with my 7-year-old niece, Ella. Goodbye winter! As we were talking, she mentioned that “gam-ma” had showed her the video of the campus presentations I give across the country. Curious about the mind of a 7-year-old, I asked her if she understood what I talked about in my keynotes. She said no, so I asked her if she’d ever heard of hazing. She gave me a face like I’d just made up the word! After I had quick snicker at her look of disbelief, I asked if they talked about bullying in her school. Now THIS rang a bell and lead to a pretty good description of bullying. I was impressed! “What would you do if you were ever bullied or saw someone else who was being bullied,” I asked. Without hesitation she said, “Tell the teacher.” Since she seemed like such an expert, I was curious what she’d say to my next question: “Ella, what if someone called you a tattletale and picked on you for telling the teacher?” She rolled her eyes and gave me this face that said ‘duh Aunt Lorin.’ “I would say to them, ‘I wouldn’t have to tell on you if you didn’t do things that were mean,'” Then she raised an eyebrow and threw me some shade! I loved it! It was simple. Direct. Honest. Fierce! I then asked her if she ever needed to help someone in school because people weren’t being nice. She thought for a moment and shared a story about a girl in her class who had some physical disabilities and no one would talk to her because she was in a wheelchair. I asked Ella what she did when she noticed no one was talking with her. She said, “I said hi, we played, now we’re friends,” and kept on walking.

It was so simple and clear to her and she was right. It got me to think…what could happen if we were all that direct? Observant? Caring? Supportive of other women?

• Would 47% of students coming to college have experienced hazing?
• Would 55% of college students involved in clubs and organizations experienced hazing?
• Would hazing be reported more than 5% of the time?
• Would 58% of workplace bullies be women targeting other women nearly 90% of the time?

From the Initial Findings of the National Study of Student Hazing: Examining and Transforming Campus Hazing Cultures conducted by The National Collaborative for Hazing Research and Prevention.

1. See something, say something. Whether you define a behavior as hazing or if you feel more comfortable using something like bullying, mean-girl behavior, degrading, or unsisterly, do something about it. Don’t assume someone else will report it, or that it isn’t a problem because no one else seems to be bothered by it.

2. Stand up for what you believe. Be clear. Get to the point…no beating around the bush. Be fierce and confront the issue head-on with care and compassion. Feel free to use my niece’s great one-liner: “I wouldn’t have to tell on you if you didn’t do things that were mean.”

3. What can you do to make a difference? From the words of Sheryl Sandberg, “Because it could be worse is not a reason to not try to make things better”. Is it saying “ hi” and making a new friend? Is it confronting a chapter tradition that needs to change? What is the change initiative with your name on it?

While not all of our adult issues may seem as simple as telling the teacher or saying “hi” to make a new friend, maybe they can be.


Visit to learn more about Fierce Confrontation or How Women Haze and how these keynotes can make a difference in your community.