"You are smart and you are pretty. It would take nothing from you to also be kind," Michelle Icard wrote

By Michelle Boudin
Updated June 01, 2016 01:05 PM
Courtesy Michelle Icard

Michelle Icard, an author and parenting expert, works from home and starts every day at her neighborhood Starbucks. But on Monday, the 43-year-old mother of two says she couldn’t enjoy her tea because of a conversation she couldn’t help but overhear at the next table.

“They were so loud and I was crawling out of my skin – I was so physically bothered by what they were saying,” Icard tells PEOPLE of the group of girls she overheard at the coffee shop. “I kept thinking, ‘This is going to stop, one of them will say something to redeem themselves,’ but it never happened.”

Icard could hear every word as the three teens trashed another girl they knew.

“They were bashing her over what was clearly a popularity issue – and they were talking about gifts they’d received and how tacky they were.”

Icard was so upset she fled the Starbucks and posted about her experience on her Facebook page. A friend commented, suggesting she go back, order the girls another round and leave a note expressing her concerns.

She did. She grabbed a card and scrawled a quick note, essentially telling them the importance of being beautiful both inside and out.

The note read:

“Hi Girls! I sat near you today in Starbucks and listened as you talked. You three are obviously pretty and hard-working. I wish your kindness matched your pretty exteriors. I heard you talk about a girl who sang a song about being lonely in the talent show – and you laughed. About a girl who couldn’t be lead singer because you got all the votes, about crappy presents other people have given you and you sounded so mean and petty.

“You are smart and you are pretty. It would take nothing from you to also be kind. – M.”

Icard says, “I think that girls who are really pretty in high school can use that as a way of hiding bad behavior, it’s almost like they feel like they have the pretty card so they can get away with it. I wanted to speak their language, but also to show them that you have a lot of power with that prettiness and you can hide behind it or you can be kind and it won’t take anything away from you.”

Icard ordered the girls another round, dropped the note at their table and left before they read what she’d written.

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An updated Facebook post about the experience has reached more than 40,000 people.

Icard tells PEOPLE, “The reaction has been one of gratitude from parents who say thank you for doing this and other moms who have read this to their daughters and had great conversations about the impact of words.”

She also blogged about the incident in a post that has also been read by thousands of people, with many referring to the trio as “mean girls.” Icard says she’s uncomfortable with that phrase. “Some girls behave meanly. I hate to label girls mean because that’s hard to overcome. All of us have been mean and been the recipient of mean behavior.”

Icard says she was reluctant to get involved, she’s ultimately grateful she did.

“I think so often we hear something that doesn’t sit with us and we don’t react, but this was something that made me feel pretty terrible and I thought there might be a way to impact these girls in a way that doesn’t embarrass them but lets them know what they do in public affects people.”