Successful living requires a balance of courage and compassion, just as it demands we balance the time we devote to achievement with the time we invest in our relationships. Courage & Compassion is a free monthly newsletter about success in life and business.

A Common Problem

Badmouthing is a common problem on teams and in organizations of all kinds. It is usually a symptom of other issues that are impacting the health of the team or organization.

In its most basic sense, badmouthing is a dishonest way of praising or elevating oneself. We do not "put others down" without believing that we, ourselves, are in some way superior to them.

We are all occasionally tempted to vent our frustration by talking about others, but the price we pay for relief is far too high.

Badmouthing destroys trust. Without trust, there can be no team. Trust is what makes honest, unguarded, productive discussion possible. Trust is what allows team members to focus on attacking problems, rather than each other. Trust is what keeps us from wasting time placing blame and defending our actions. It is what makes it possible for us to focus on the task at hand and reach our desired future.

The greatest barrier to putting an end to badmouthing is lack of courage. I have come to define courage as follows:

Courage = Talking to someone, rather than about him (her).

Why don’t we approach others directly with our feedback and concerns rather than taking the coward’s way out? We may fear the person’s response (anger, crying, attacking us), the ultimate repercussions for sharing our thoughts, or may not know how to approach people with a difficult message.

Not only must we learn to speak directly to others rather than about them. We need to be on guard lest others drag us into their bad behavior. When someone approaches us and begins to talk about another, we can respond in a number of ways. We can jump in and become a party to character assassination or, we can ask the "would-be" informant if he has spoken to the person he is about to discuss. We might say something like, "Have you spoken to him about this? He is the one you need to talk to." Another approach is to simply say "Ouch!" as soon as the person begins to speak negatively about someone else. This will let him know that you want no part of it.

We all need to be on our guard against bad mouthing. It is all too human to fall right into it. It may be helpful for us to remember that someone who speaks negatively about another person will not hesitate to speak negatively about us.

What a noble goal to be known as a person that never speaks ill of others. I would find it easy to trust a person like that

The powerful true story of the relationship between a homeless man and an upscale art dealer, Same Kind of Different as Me, will grab your heart and encourage you to enlarge your vision. Authored by Ron Hall and Denver Moore.

The Shack is a fictional account of a man who experiences a tragic loss and is overcome by what he calls "The Great Sadness." He’s drawn back to the scene of the tragedy, a wilderness shack, where he personally and directly interacts with God. This novel has been somewhat controversial, but in my opinion, well worth reading.

Both books are New York Times Bestsellers.

A father once said to me, "You can’t scare me, I have teenagers!" One of the difficulties in successfully managing teens is that their pre-frontal cortex, the part of the brain that makes judgments, is not fully developed. This part of the brain does not completely mature until age twenty- five. For this reason, teens seldom think through the long-term consequences of their choices. As a parent, you can help them "see" what they do not see, but first, you must listen. Teenagers’ primary complaint is that their parents don’t listen. You must move beyond the physical act of hearing to reflecting back your understanding of their point of view and actually considering its validity.

Make your home a safe place, a place where your teen knows that he/she is fully accepted and loved without condition. Avoid performance-based acceptance.

Unforgiveness is the toxin we drink while hoping our enemy drops dead.

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© Susan Silvers