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Newsletter Volume 20 - June 19, 2002
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We have exciting news to share with you. On June 4, Academy Award-winning actress Susan Sarandon brought the message of Words Can Heal to a national TV audience. The popular ABC daytime talk show The View featured as its Celebrity Hot Topic the subject of gossip. Ms. Sarandon appeared with Star Jones, Meredith Vieira, Lisa Ling, and Joy Behar in a lively discussion about gossip, rumors, and verbal violence.

"Words Can Heal is a group that's trying to make people realize the power of words, both to heal and to hurt," Ms. Sarandon declared with genuine enthusiasm. When challenged by the other stars as to what people would talk about if they didn't gossip about other people, Ms. Sarandon recommended talking about current events and humanitarian issues.

We appreciate Ms. Sarandon's zest in endorsing the message of Words Can Heal. And we hope that all of you will continue to "pass it along . . ."

Irwin Katsof
Executive Director
Words Can Heal


Susan Sarandon's Pointers For Eliminating Negative Speech:

  1. Realize that negative speech, whether by children in fifth grade or adults around the water cooler, can have serious harmful ramifications that can affect people for years.


  2. Develop techniques to eliminate verbal violence in families. Stop and think before you lash out, because family members know where relatives are vulnerable, and a cutting remark or derogatory name stays with a person even after they've made peace.


  3. Give your children tools for dealing with sticky situations. When kids are dumping on another child, such as calling him "ugly" or calling her "fat," it may be too much to expect your child to stick up for the victim. You can, however, teach your child to say, "I'm not comfortable with this," and distance him/herself from the scene. Afterwards your child will feel better about him/herself, and the abusive kids may get the message.


  4. Recognize how much damage verbal violence does. According to polls, 90% of Americans consider peer teasing and shunning during adolescence to be a problem. Star Jones quoted a Words Can Heal poll that found that 63 million Americans admitted that people say something untrue about them at least once a week. Eliminating harmful speech is a cause worth working for.


What Else Are We Supposed to Talk About?

During the TV broadcast, Ms. Sarandon mentioned a personal anecdote. She arranged a sleepover party for her daughter's 11th birthday. When the girls were all assembled, she said, "Can we just try to not talk about somebody who's not here?" (See rewritten paragraph below during the segment, Susan made reference to the girls "really flexing their muscles" in gossiping. I have rewritten this paragraph to be truer to the context.

Ms. Sarandon made reference to a personal anecdote during the TV broadcast. At a sleepover party she gave for her 11-year-old daughter, the girls were gossiping about others "really flexing their muscles". Ms. Sarandon finally said, "Can we just try to not talk about somebody who's not here?"

The response: One little girl looked up and asked, "Then what are we supposed to talk about?"

Amusingly or pathetically enough, the stars on "The View" flung the same challenge at Ms. Sarandon: If we don't talk about the latest romantic and legal woes of celebrities, what can we talk about?

Here are some suggestions from Words Can Heal for alternatives to gossip at every age:

Alternatives to Gossip

  • For Adolescents: Personal problems they're grappling with, such as too much homework, a room that's too small, their desire for a pet vs. their parent's allergy to dog hair, ways to earn money for guitar lessons.


  • For Teenagers: Conflicts about their future, such as the desire to be an actor/actress vs. the reluctance to move so far away from home, or the aspiration to be a doctor vs. the aversion to spending eight years plus in higher ed.


  • For Adults: World events and issues, such as the proper response to Afghanistan's call for an American peace-keeping force to prevent rape and other civilian atrocities, or the ongoing practice of slavery in the Sudan, or the financial plight of Argentina, or how, post-9/11, we can create "a better normal."

Visit www.WordsCanHeal.org for more ideas on how to heal with words.

And spread the word! Send this message out today -- together we can make a difference!

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