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If you are old enough to read this post, I am sure you have experienced what it feels like to have people talk behind your back. When this happens to you, how does it make you feel towards the person who spoke poorly of you?
Your Words Are a Mirror
What we say about others reflects on our own character. Specifically, when we speak unfavorably of others, it not only hurts the person our words are aimed at, but it also damages our credibility and reputation in the process.
Richard Carlson put it this way: “ When we judge or criticize another person, it says nothing about that person; it merely says something about our own need to be critical.”
When we speak negatively about someone else, others often perceive it as a ploy for our own personal gain.
When our words persuade others to our point of view as to the faults and shortcomings of someone who is not present, we are taking unfair advantage of that person. This holds true whether we’re talking about an individual, a group, or a business.
The Critical Cashier
For example, last week, I was in my local supermarket picking up a bag of ice. I took a shortcut through one of the empty lanes to get to the service desk since I was only purchasing one item.
A cashier happened to be in that lane and said he could help me. I told him I didn’t realize his lane was open because he was standing off to the side. He proceeded to tell me about the “stupid policies” of the store. He ranted about various things during my purchase and spoke nothing but ill of his employer.
All the time he was unloading his personal dissatisfaction, I was questioning his motives and forming my impression of him—and it wasn’t a good one! I immediately summed him up as an inconsiderate employee who failed to see himself as a store representative with an obligation to act and speak accordingly.
Positivity Is Good for Your Reputation
It is also important to keep in mind that where your attention goes, so goes you’re your emotional energy. Focus on positive things and your life will be positive; focus on negative things and your life will be negative. When you say destructive things about others, your emotional energy is also negatively affected.
On the other hand, when you brand yourself as someone who refrains from speaking disapprovingly of others, not only will people’s respect for you grow, but you will also be happier. When you hold back saying something negative about someone else—especially when given the opportunity—you exemplify self-control and concern for others.
“Any fool can criticize, condemn, and complain but it takes character and self-control to be understanding and forgiving.” Dale Carnegie
Do not, however, confuse speaking of someone in a derogatory way with participating in a formal critique, such as job performance reviews or when you are asked to point out deficiencies for the purpose of helping someone improve in certain areas. In these instances, use tact and diplomacy to focus on performance issues and always avoid personal attacks.
Tips for Avoiding Negative Conversations
Sometimes figuratively (and sometimes literally) I bite my tongue when I am on the verge of saying something negative. I do so knowing that quelling the urge to speak my mind on impulse helps me show consideration for others, uphold my values, and maintain my reputation.
You can build a reputation that commands respect by refusing to speak negatively of others in all circumstances—regardless of who is or isn’t present.
About the Author: Todd Smith is a successful entrepreneur of 30 years and founder of Little Things Matter. To receive Todd’s daily lessons, subscribe here. All Todd’s lessons are also available on iTunes as downloadable podcasts. (Todd’s podcasts are ranked #27 in America’s top 100 podcasts and #1 in the personal and development field.)