There's an old saying, "If you have nothing nice to say, don't say anything at all," and now IKEA are seeking to bring that into 2018 by teaching kids to be nicer to each other… and to plants.
In a bizarre experiment, the Swedish homewares chain asked school students in the United Arab Emirates to bully one of their plants, while complimenting another.
"Plants have feelings, just like people," the company wrote alongside a YouTube video of the project.
"So, what happens when you feed one plant with compliments and another with negative remarks?" they asked.
The company claims that the social experiment was used "to raise awareness on the effects of bullying," and used the hashtag #SayNoToBullying in their media.
Running over the course of a month, the experiment concluded that the plant receiving insults failed to thrive, unlike the plant getting positive attention from students.
Naturally, the video has attracted a lot of criticism online, with many questioning the legitimacy of the astounding outcome, claiming that it was a deceptive, thinly-veiled ad for IKEA.
"There is no way this is sound science. I want this repeated with more plants. This is a hoax," wrote a YouTube commenter.
"Scam ad that's obviously been rigged by the ad agency," said another, adding: "This whole 'experiment' is based on non-existent science. Kudos for doing something for a good cause but this is entirely fake. "
Another viewer wanted to know, "What languages do the plants speak? "
Many argued that because plants lack a nervous system, they do not feel physical or emotional pain like animals and humans do.
Others weren't as sceptical, however, and congratulated IKEA on their positive project, even sharing their own experiences with plant-talk.
"It's true that if you talk to your plants and even sing to them, they grow better and are healthier. I know so coz I have done the same experiment on my own plants. The deterioration of a 'bullied' plant is the same as that of one that's attacked by pests," said a YouTuber.
"Great work IKEA UAE! Here's to more companies using their influence in positive ways! " responded another.
Another suggested that the "haters" should read the 1973 book The Secret Life of Plants, which proposed the idea that plants do react to sound, claiming that plants respond positively to classical music.
Hence, it could be said that while the insults would obviously not be understood linguistically, it's possible that their verbal delivery could have altered the plant in some way.
"Although they may seem passive, plants have their own complex sensory systems too, designed to respond to dangers or other changes in their environment," Alana Schetzer of the University of Melbourne wrote in an online paper.
"Plants may not have eyes, ears or a tongue, but their skin can perform many of the same functions," she continued, adding that plants have an awareness of their surroundings, and "can respond accordingly."
The "plants can hear us" theory was also tested in an episode of The Discovery Channel's Mythbusters.
A team of sceptics divided 60 pea plants into three greenhouses and left them to grow with identical sun exposure, soil and water.
For the duration of the 60-day project, two of the greenhouses were played recorded soundtracks, one of loving praise and one of cruel insults, while the third remained silent.
At the end of the experiment, it was determined by comparing plant masses from the three groups that there was no difference in plant quality between the nice greenhouse and the mean greenhouse.
In fact, both recorded yielding greater biomass and bigger pods than the third, silent greenhouse.
If the Mythbusters' theory is correct, talking to plants, no matter what you say, is beneficial.