LIVINGSTON, NJ - Using humor and her own awkward teen experiences, Rachel Simmons, author of the New York Times best seller Odd Girl Out: The Hidden Culture of Aggression in Girls taught those attending her workshop at Livingston High School’s auditorium on Monday night how to communicate how they feel in order to make changes in their relationships.

The workshop began with Ms. Simmons surveying the audience comprised of mostly 6thand 8th-grade girls and their mothers on how society expects a “good girl” to look and act. Using their cell phones to answer the question, the audience watched as their answers popped up on the screen. Polite, nice, modest, pretty were the answers that popped up the most.

She then asked everyone to sit like a teenage boy. Simultaneously the audience uncrossed their legs and slouched. She explained that boys are given some leeway, but girls are expected to be perfect, making it difficult for girls to be their “messy” selves. “It is that imperfect, messy self that makes you awesome,” she assured.

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She encouraged the girls to let go of some of that pressure to be perfect and stressed the importance of expressing how they feel because that will create a change in their relationships.

Ms. Simmons sees conflict as an opportunity to improve relationships, but was quick to point out that sometimes conflicts do not always end with happily every after.

When faced with a friend problem she offered this simple acronym, GIRL. G stands for gathering/listing choices on how to handle the situation. I stands for I choose. Choose from the list of choices. R stands for reasons for selecting that choice. L is for listing the outcomes of that choice. By thinking about their choices and possible outcomes, girls become more resilient and more empowered.

Monday night's meeting is part of an ongoing series of workshops on bullying, also known as relational aggression. Jane Hecht, Director of Livingston Municipal Alliance Committee (LMAC), one of the sponsors said, “We need to educate the community about relational aggression so we can have a cultural shift.”

Along with Monday night’s presentation, Ms. Simmons will discuss relational aggression with girls at Mt. Pleasant Middle School December 7 and with Heritage Middle School 8th-grade girls January 27.  At the same time boys at both schools will work with a specialist on team-building skills.

Monday night's event was sponsored by LMAC, Livingston Public Schools, PT Council, Jewish Family Service of MetroWest and Words.

To learn more about Rachel Simmons and her workshops visit her website