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Newsletter Volume 29 - October 25, 2002
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Gossip doesn’t start in the mouth, but in the mind.
Gossip doesn’t end with our obnoxious neighbor, but ends up hurting our friends, our relatives, even the people we love the most.

We speak negatively about other people because we think negatively about them. Thinking in a critical, faultfinding way about others becomes a pattern. We end up harshly judging our spouses, our parents, our children, everyone we love. Nothing undermines a relationship as much as criticism.

The Antidote for Negative Judgements

As modern psychology points out, how we perceive people and events is very much the product of our cognitive choices. If we choose to see those around us as stupid, careless, and inconsiderate, we will be surrounded by stupid, careless, and inconsiderate people. If, on the other hand, we choose to see those around us as basically good people who are trying as hard as they can, then we will be surrounded by good people. The choice is ours.

The antidote for negative, critical judgments is to judge people favorably. In “Giving the Benefit of the Doubt, Part 1,” (newsletter #27) we offered two techniques for judging people favorably. In this issue, we offer an additional two powerful methods for regarding other people in a more positive light.

I. Before criticizing others, remember when you yourself acted similarly. Examples:
  1. You call M. to discuss an important matter. M. says, “I can’t talk just now, but I’ll call you right back.” Three hours later, M. has still not called back. You could think-and say-“M. is so undependable. M. never does what she says she’ll do. Obviously M. doesn’t consider our relationship very important!” Or you could ask yourself: “Was there ever a time when I said, ‘I’ll call you right back,’ and then I got side-tracked, or I received a lengthy long-distance call, or the telephone got tied up by another family member, or . . . I simply forgot?’ If you can remember when you failed to return a call, M. will seem much less guilty in your eyes.

  2. The babysitter you hired arrives twenty minutes late, making you miss the beginning of the movie you’ve planned to see. You could think-and say-“This babysitter is such an airhead. She’s so irresponsible. I’ll tell everyone in our building not to hire her again.” Or you could ask yourself: “Did I ever tell a babysitter that I’ll be home at 11:00, and not arrive home till 11:20, for very compelling reasons, of course?” The same “compelling reasons” may apply to your babysitter.

  3. A friend S. borrows something of yours (a book, a tool, a kitchen gadget, etc.), and returns it damaged. You could think-and say-“S. is totally unreliable and careless. S. has no regard for other people’s possessions.” Or you could ask yourself: “Did I ever borrow anything and return it damaged? Of course, I did everything possible to take care of it, but the dog got hold of it when I wasn’t home . . .” S. may have tried just as hard to take care of your possession.
II. See the whole person. Sometimes a person really is guilty of doing something wrong. There are no extenuating circumstances you can invoke to give the benefit of the doubt. But is that particular action or trait the whole person?
  1. You are sitting in your favorite Italian restaurant to celebrate your anniversary, and your spouse is fifteen minutes late. You know there was no emergency or unforeseeable delay. Your spouse is chronically tardy. You could think, “B. is always late. It’s so inconsiderate. Why does B. think that only his/her time is important? Obviously B. doesn’t value our relationship enough to be on time.” Or you could think: “B. always has a problem being on time, but s/he tries so hard to please me in other ways. That’s why we’re going Italian-my favorite-tonight, and not to the Chinese restaurant that B. prefers.”

  2. A relative G. borrows money from you, and says he’ll pay it back in six months. A year later, you still haven’t seen the money. At a family gathering, G. is obviously avoiding you. You could think-and say to everyone within earshot-“G. is a loser where money is concerned. Don’t make the mistake I did and lend G. money. You’ll never see it again.” Or you could think-and say: “Some people have trouble getting their financial act together. But they make up for it in other ways. G. is so generous with his time. When I moved houses five years ago, G. spent all weekend helping me pack up boxes and moving them in his van.”

When you judge other people favorably, you not only end up feeling better about them, but you also feel better about yourself.

Visit for more ideas on how to heal with words.

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