One Simple Vow That Will Protect Your Family And Your Success

Let me begin with a brief story to illustrate today’s lesson. Last year, Veronica and I took long time friends (let’s call them the Baker’s) who were visiting from California out to dinner at a local pub here in Oregon.

During our meal together, they asked us how our other mutual friends (let’s call them the Anderson’s) were doing. I replied, “You know… I don’t think they’re doing real well. It seems like they’ve isolated themselves and just have different values than us now.” “Wow… we would have never guessed that…”, replied the Bakers. “Ya… Me neither”, I replied. We continued on discussing our thoughts and opinions of how this change in the Anderson’s may have occurred and eventually, we moved on to other subjects of conversation.

Three weeks later, I received a phone call from John Anderson who said, “Hey Dale, we had dinner with the Baker’s when they were in town a few weeks ago and they told us you and Veronica thought we had been walking in isolation and now have different values. What’s going on man?”

Uh oh. I hope you’re beginning to see where this article is going.

It was this incredibly embarrassing and difficult conversation that finally led me to realize this truth: Talking about others is almost always unprofitable.

Now, on the multiple choice exam, we would all check the box that reads, “Gossip is bad.” But in reality, we live in a culture which seems to have turned gossip into our national pastime. Gossip happens every day in our cities, classrooms, and cell phone conversations all around us. Furthermore, gossip is a sanctioned industry in America. We have gossip magazines and television shows. Gossip columnists even make careers out of spreading half-truths and rumors.

One writer wrote, “If gossip was a food, our entire nation would be obese.”

But my purpose today is not to rail on what the culture is doing wrong but for us to examine what men and women of integrity should be doing with opportunities of gossip in our own lives.

Going back to my story about the Baker’s and Anderson’s it’s easy to become frustrated at the Baker’s who had the heart to share my words with the Anderson’s. However, that’s merely a fruit of the root problem. The real issue was my inability to control my heart, my mind, and my mouth.

The Bible says, “Out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks.”

My frustrations or concerns with the Anderson’s had no business in the ears of the Baker’s. I was too weak to present my concerns to them in person and instead, I simply advertised my own immaturity, lack of self-control, and divisive heart to our dinner guests.

Having said that, life has taught me that pain, humiliation, and embarrassment are our greatest teachers. It was that uncomfortable conversation and apology that ultimately led Veronica and I to make a vow.

That night Veronica and I vowed to avoid talking about others unless it was strictly to share something positive, passing along non-damaging information, or genuinely trying to build them up in the eyes of others.

Secondly, this moment taught us three quick lessons:

1. Loyalty Shouldn’t Depend On Someone’s Presence

The integrity of our relationships should never rely on the attendance of our counterparts. Conditional loyalty is the state of an immature heart. As leaders, we must speak carefully in hopes we might protect our relationships from the spreading on unverified statements or less-than-encouraging opinions.

2. Who Gossips With You Will Gossip Of You

Speaking poorly about someone else when they are not present to defend themselves says more about you than the person you’re talking about. Ultimately, a person willing to share unfruitful words regarding others provides you a peek into how you should expect to be spoken of when you’re not around.

3. Gossip Dies When It Hits The Ears Of The Wise

That day, the Baker’s missed a moment of maturity. But that experience taught me the three appropriate responses from the recipent of gossip:

  1. Quickly move the conversation to another topic.
  2. If it’s about a conflict, encourage them to share their thoughts with the party involved and request to be left out of the details.
  3. Have the self-control to forget what was said

Gossip is a deep well issue. A topic fit for volumes of books, theories, and instruction. But regardless if your foot lands in the deep end or the shallow waters, you’re partaking in the act of destroying people’s relationships, reputations, and trust.

As leaders and business owners, I encourage you to vaccinate yourself with the truth about gossip. I challenge you to avoid justifying your reasons and allowing yourself to perpetuate this cycle of brokenness in our culture.

Life-giving speech and gossip are the respective languages of right and wrong. Our mouths play a very important role in the pursuit of mutual edification and peace. Our words should be carefully chosen and designed to build up, not to destroy.

What have you learned about gossip? Any hard lessons? Tell me about them in the comments below.

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Author

Dale Partridge
Dale Partridge is the Founder of StartupCamp.com. He's also a keynote speaker and author of the Wall Street Journal & USA Today Bestselling book People Over Profit.

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  1. Ruth says:

    When I was small, my mother (who happened to come from a very gossipy family) wisely taught me that if I had something to say about someone else, I should always pretend that person was present in the same room with me. It was easy to do when I was young. I would imagine that person standing there and it was simple to say only things that were uplifting about him or her. But many years later, I somehow forgot that lesson as it became so much more commonplace to hear, and then to participate in, the sin of gossip. Thanks for bringing this shortcoming to our attention, Dale; for me it has served as a reminder of my mother’s teaching.
    I appreciated your portrayal of this situation. Many of us could probably identify with getting sucked into participation when we know better. I would have liked to see you give a possible alternate tactic that might give you strength to refuse, or at least dodge, becoming entangled in this tearing down of another’s character at the critical moment when the subject is brought up, the invitation is given, and the opportunity to join in is a wide-open door. What might you have said – or maybe not said – instead?

    Reply
    • Dale Partridge says:

      Wow I love that perspective, your mother sounds like a very wise woman. 🙂 And thank you for the feedback! Perhaps I will add that in to a blog in the future.

      Reply
  2. Thanks for sharing this, Dale, it’s so important. As someone who feels very strongly about getting the early boundaries right, I still manage to make mistakes here – it’s so subtle. One of the best illustrations I heard was in a film that compared gossip to someone cutting open a feather pillow on a roof. The feathers blew everywhere and it was impossible to trace or collect them all – gossip is the same.
    Wow our words are so powerful!

    Reply
  3. Chris Wynter says:

    The second paragraph should be, “Wow… we would have never guessed that…”, replied the Bakers. (not Anderson’s.) 🙂

    Reply
  4. Thank you for this needful reminder. A person I greatly respected as a leader and mentor of sorts once offered her very negative opinion of me, which came back to me through the grapevine. She will never know how hard that was for me to recover from and forgive. But I’ve also offered my negative opinions of people thoughtlessly, on too many occasions. Proverbs says it well, “Set a watch, O Lord, at my tongue, a guard at the door of my lips.” Sometimes it does us good to suffer the sting of a backbite, to remind us to stop before doing the same to another. I’ve also been blessed by a sweet old lady who spoke well of me to others, and as one gal my age put it, “She just made me like you.” That still warms my heart when I thin of it. I think we don’t realize how much power we have to build up or destroy others simply by what we say of them.

    Reply
  5. Great article Dale. I’ve been dealing with this recently, both in your situation and on the Anderson’s side. Love how you were able to address this succinctly but with detail as well. Bravo!

    Reply
  6. Thank you Dale! That is an outstanding message. If we live with integrity, we will always take criticism directly to the person whom it concerns out of genuine concern for their well-being, and we will do so gently and in love. We will vow never to garner a following of other people who then harbour the same resentment. Thank you for this message. It has challenged me!

    Reply
    • That’s awesome, Sean! A challenge is the best way to see it. 🙂

      Reply
  7. Rex says:

    I don’t see the comments about your friends as gossip.
    You were simply describing a situation and expressed a plausible opinion for their distancing.
    It’s not like you were relishing in talking garbage about them.
    Furthermore, the guys I would really talk to would be your messenger friends.
    Those are the ones with whom you don’t definitely share your values.

    Reply
    • Thanks for your response, Rex! I definitely appreciate you seeing it that way. For me, it’s always been much less about the intricacy of the intention around the action and more about avoiding the action altogether. That way, I’ve learned the skill of avoiding gossip entirely, which ends the struggle of feeling constantly tempted to cross the line because I liked to walk so close to it.

      Reply
  8. Excellent article! It captured the truth that gossip can just slip out – its not that we are even being malicious when we do it – sometimes its just that lack of awareness and self-control like you said.

    I’m a strong believer that your words make your life. So a person who’s mouth is filled with gossip, has a life that is filled with envy and pride. But a person who’s mouth is filled with praise of others, has a life will with gratitude and appreciation.

    Reply
  9. Helen Davies says:

    I agree this subject is of critical importance. I don’t know what was in your heart when you discussed the “Andersons”. Maybe you felt critical or maybe disappointment or concern. But the way I interpreted the situation is not so much about expressing personal thoughts about others, whether with a gossipy spirit or not, but that we must be extremely careful who we trust. Most people have not matured in integrity to be trust worthy. I’ve found that to be true most of the time, even within the spiritual setting of a church. It takes maturity to know when to be silent about a matter. You no doubt trusted the “Bakers” not to repeat everything you said. They lacked integrity to repeat that, and to not consider that it would hurt the “Andersons” and hurt your relationship with them. Perhaps that’s the gossip you’re referring to. They were gossips more than you were. So it seems they were not on your same level of maturity, if you couldn’t trust them to respect your personal feelings about something. Sometimes as we grow, we will need to leave others behind that no longer share our level of respect and integrity. I say that with humility because those of us who desire to mature emotionally and spiritually will have the right spirit toward others.

    Reply
    • Thanks for your response and thoughtfulness here, Helen, and I appreciate the encouragement in and toward maturity. 🙂

      Reply

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