I can clearly remember years ago driving from what I thought was a good meeting to the airport with a fellow leader and colleague of mine. Why do I remember so clearly? Because it was a constant barrage of negativity directed toward our then new leader all the way to the airport.
I didn’t feel the same way as this person felt, and I formed a strong mistrust in some areas towards this individual for the rest of our time on the team together.
It’s one thing to disagree, it is another thing to find nothing good and to generalize and label a person’s character based on a few things you don’t agree with. And… it’s one thing to disagree, and it is another to tell others you don’t even know very well.
This discussion taught me several things about this person immediately.
First, if they were willing to share what they think about our new leader to someone they don’t really even know very well, what would they say about me? This is a person I better be careful being around.
Second, I immediately lost respect for this teammate. I love the quote by Eleanor Roosevelt, “Great minds discuss ideas. Average minds discuss events. Small minds discuss people.” People who jump to conclusions so quickly lack the ability to look at both sides and make good logical decisions in my opinion.
I did my best to help this person see our leaders perspective. In no way was I going to side with such malicious misjudgments. However, nothing I did seemed to change the way they felt. Fortunately I wasn’t riding all the way home on the plane with this person.
The reality is, no one is perfect, and what you say to someone else behind another’s back isn’t going to change any perceived gaps you feel are there. So why do we do it? Why do we speak ill of others? I believe it has a lot to do with our own insecurities.
Each day we spend time battling ourselves and comparing us to to others. Instead of working on our own weaknesses, it is easier to point out others weaknesses. For some strange reason when we can identify the weaknesses of someone else it makes us feel better, it elevates us in our own mind.
How many times in marriage do you see one spouse constantly focused on the weaknesses of the other, only to discover the real weakness in the marriage is the one pointing out the weaknesses of the other.
While I realize the psychology behind why some feel good about speaking bad about others may not be as simple as I have outlined above, wouldn’t our time be better spent taking inventory of ourselves more often rather than passionately discussing why so and so really isn’t all that?
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