MUSCATINE, Iowa - Fourth-grader Leigha Armstrong was reminded of an important lesson Tuesday morning during an assembly at Jefferson Elementary.
"If you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all," she repeated after hearing speaker Corrine Gregory's presentation on the SocialSmarts program.
Gregory, 47, of Bellevue, Wash., is the developer and president of SocialSmarts, a series of courses that encourage people of all ages to show respect, compassion, trustworthiness and integrity in their relationships.
Her latest book is, "It's Not Who You Know, It's How You Treat Them: Five SocialSmarts Secrets Today's Business Leaders Need to Stand Out and Be Successful."
Muscatine Rotary Club members helped sponsor Gregory's visit to Muscatine after learning she would be speaking in the Quad-City region this week.
The Bi-State Literacy Council, the Moline Dispatch and Quad-City Times newspapers, Bettendorf Library, Friends of the Moline Library, and other area Rotary Clubs are sponsoring her visit to the region.
Gregory, who worked in technology and business for 20 years, said she began SocialSmarts seven years ago after receiving compliments on the manners her three daughters display.
She spoke to Jefferson students in grades 3-5 and Central Middle School students in grades 6-8, challenging both groups to use empathy as a basis for their actions and words.
"She reminded us to remember to respect others and be sensitive about their feelings," said eighth-grader Mark Schafer. "You can forget to do that sometimes, especially in middle school when you get caught up in everything."
Gregory told students that the Golden Rule - "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you" - is as useful today as it was centuries ago.
She described different forms of bullying, including social alienation, cyber bullying and continuing to tease a person who has objected to the teasing.
Third-grader Carlos Acuna, 8, said Gregory taught him to think of insults as being like garden slugs.
"If you accept it, you and the person who gave it to you are both the same," he said.
Gregory told the students that the slime from the slug goes from the hand of the person who says it to the person who receives it.
Gregory also asked the students to consider a new turn on an old adage.
"Sticks and stone may break my bones, but words can break my heart," she said.
Good manners and mutual respect are part of the social skills that impact 85 percent of an individual's personal and professional success, Gregory said.
"When you have them, (manners,) and use them, it makes everything else easier," she said.