For the Press About Us Tell A Friend Watch the Video Get the Handbook Free Newsletter Take the Pledge
Home Navigation
Get the Handbook

Home   (Handbook)


Buy the Handbook

Table of Contents

Introduction & Acknowledgements

1: Life is Not a Sitcom

2: Yada, Yada, Yada

3: Treasure Chest

4: Work & Home Survival Guide

5: Success Stories

About Words Can Heal

About the Authors


The Handbook Online

Work & Home Survival Guide

Let everyone know that Words Can Heal. Make sure to tell your friends.

  1. Send a friend a link to the site
  2. Buy a copy of the handbook Proceeds go to benefit Educational Programs
  3. Print out as many copies of the book that you like

The uplifting aspect

of words cannot

be underestimated.

Most highly successful

people will tell you

that someone special

encouraged them

with words.

Part 1: At Work

Is behind-the-scenes gossip hurting or helping your company? Does it serve as
Nobody believes the official spokesman. . . but everybody trusts an unidentified source.
- Ron Nesen
an unofficial information source, or does it cripple your firm?

The truth is, no matter how helpful gossip might be in keeping people informed, it also creates a hostile environment, destroys teams, and ruins trust. Office gossip is the silent killer of the working world.

Office gossip is the silent killer of the working world.

If you make the effort to avoid negative speech in the workplace, it wonít just make you appear to be a nice person. It will actually give you a competitive edge. Why? Because people will trust you. That is more valuable to a team than any other single quality.

In this chapter you will find stories to help you practice thinking about what to do in various situations.

Marty & Ron

Marty stood listening with the rest of the staff as their boss, Jessica, criticized Ronís report behind his back. Marty felt bad because Ron was his close friend.
The secret to a fulfilling social and business life is being surrounded by people you trust.
Ron was in the middle of a messy divorce, which was not public knowledge, and right now he was very distracted.

Marty didnít know what to do, so he just remained silent, but he felt terrible afterward. When he passed Ron in the hallway later that day, he pretended to be in a big rush so he wouldnít have to stop and talk. He felt guilty for betraying his friend.

What could Marty have done differently?

  1. Marty could have asked Jessica to stop criticizing Ron in public.

  2. Marty could have told Ron about what Jessica had said about him.

  3. Marty could have spoken to Jessica privately afterward.
  1. Correcting a gossiper in front of a group will embarrass him or her. Instead, Marty could have shown a lack of interest, or better yet, left the room.

  2. If Marty reported back to Ron what Jessica had said about him, it would have hurt Ronís feelings.

  3. This is the best answer. Marty could have told Jessica directly that he felt bad when she derided Ron in public. Alternatively, Marty could have indirectly mentioned to Jessica how capable he thinks Ron usually is.

Norie & Sharon

Norie, the business manager, discovered that Sharon, the presidentís secretary, had never sent out the bills to the customers, causing severe cash- flow problems. Norie sat down with Sharon privately to discuss the matter. Sharon became very defensive and said she would get Norie fired for questioning her. Sharon stormed out, leaving Norie in a state of panic.

Norie immediately phoned the president and told him exactly what Sharon had done and that Sharon was on her way over to try to get her fired.

What could Norie have done differently?

  1. Norie could have written an e-mail or memo to her boss explaining the situation.

  2. Norie could have raced after Sharon and told her to reconsider her position.

  3. Norie could have called Sharonís best friend and asked her to intervene.
  1. Communicating negative statements in writing is just as bad as engaging in negative speech.

  2. This is the best answer. Sharon was angry, but knowing that she was wrong, she was likely bluffing about going to the boss. Norie would probably have been able to fix the situation by calming Sharon down and discussing how to solve the cash-flow problems. If this method didnít work, she should have waited. Her boss wouldnít have fired Norie without hearing her side of the story, and when he heard it, Sharon would have been in even bigger trouble.

  3. Telling Sharonís friend would have been spreading the damage.

Luke & Jody

Luke sat in the human resources office, thrilled to be starting his new job. Jody was helping him fill out the paperwork and struck up a conversation with him. Jody told him to watch out because his new boss made a lot of promises that he never kept. She let him know that the secretary was friendly with the CEO, so he shouldnít get on her bad side. Jody also said that the best way to stay out of trouble was to always keep your door shut.

Luke was disheartened; his boss had seemed so decent. All his hopes and dreams were deflated. He thanked Jody for her help and plodded off to his new office.

What could Luke have done differently?

  1. Luke could have stopped Jody as soon as she started gossiping by saying that he appreciated her help, but he preferred to form his own impressions.

  2. Luke could have interrupted Jodyís gossip with questions in order to change the subject.

  3. Luke could have told his new boss what Jody had said.
  1. While this would be ideal, it would likely alienate Jody - not the best thing to do on the first day of work.

  2. This is the best answer. Luke should also have resolved to try not to believe any of Jodyís gossip.

  3. This would constitute gossip.
Many people spend their lives ruining office morale just for the fun of it. Stay as far away from these negative people as you can.

Jill & Susan

Jill called Susan into the store office. This was the third time in a month
Beware: Gossip is a powerful weapon that often tends to blow up without warning.
that the registers hadnít tallied correctly. Susan told Jill that Carlos was to blame. Carlos let cashiers work each otherís registers, and on one occasion he had allowed one cashier to count and close out anotherís cash drawer.

Jill called Carlos in and fired him.

What could Susan have done differently?

  1. Susan could have told Jill that she didnít want to inform on anyone, but she would try her best to solve the problem.

  2. Susan could have blamed several people to save Carlos from getting fired.

  3. Susan could have taken the blame for the problem and asked for another chance.
  1. This is the best answer. There is often no need to blame anyone. Managers want solutions, not reasons that things arenít going well. Susan should have called Carlos aside at the first sign of trouble and restated the rules of the store. She then could have monitored the results to make sure the problem was solved. If it was not solved, then Susan could have reported the problem to the boss.

  2. Speaking ill about many people is as bad as speaking ill about one individual.

  3. This would mean that Susan was speaking negatively about herself, as well as lying.
Our society values humor above trust. But actually, trust is far more important for healthy relationships and happiness.

Eileen & Neil

There was a policy against romantic relationships in the office. Eileen and Neil figured that if they were very discreet and didnít let their relationship interfere with their work, no one would pay much attention to the policy.

One weekend, Meg and a date were having dinner at a restaurant and happened to see Eileen and Neil there. By mid-day Monday, everyone in the office knew about the relationship. Eileen and Neil countered Megís gossip with gossip of their own, making fun of Megís date, and saying that Meg was drunk. The entire day was steeped in gossip, intrigue, and infighting, and very little work was accomplished.

What could Eileen and Neil have done differently?

  1. They could have denied their personal relationship and pretended their meeting was for business.

  2. They could have said and done nothing.

  3. They could have spoken with Meg at the restaurant and asked her not to say anything.
  1. This would not have seemed believable, nor would it have been true.

  2. This is a viable option. If Eileen and Neil had shown they didnít care, it is probable that no one else would have gotten so wrapped up in their affairs.

  3. This is the best answer. Even if Meg was a mean person, she might have been pleased to be trusted, and it would have been the best way to avoid an unpleasant experience.


Talia decided that she was no longer going to gossip with everyone all through lunch every day. One day, she ran an errand. On the next day, she sat with someone else. On the third day, one of the people in her clique started a rumor that Talia thought she was too good for everybody.

Talia responded by telling the other co-workers, who were not part of the clique, what the group said about them behind their backs.

What could Talia have done differently?

  1. Talia could have gone back to her friends and acted as if nothing had ever happened.

  2. Talia could have confronted the person who started the gossip about her and nipped the gossip in the bud.

  3. Talia could have told only one ally what her clique had said about everyone.
  1. This would not have helped Talia accomplish her goal of gossiping less.

  2. This is the best answer, since real friendship is based on trust, not on gossip.

  3. Telling one ally would have served no purpose and could have caused just as much damage.
Beware of Rebound Gossip: "He said that about me? Well, let me tell you about him!" It takes tremendous strength to not tell your side of the story, but restraint gains you more respect than lashing back ever could.

At Work Survival Guide

  1. Try to avoid listening to gossip by either leaving or asking a question.

  2. Think twice before you speak badly of others, even if your gossip is to protect yourself from someone elseís gossip about you.

  3. Beware of negative people who try to ruin office morale.

  4. Try not to blame others, even if it is their fault. Try to help them do better in the future.

  5. Try to appeal to a colleagueís goodness to keep things confidential in order to avoid potential gossip.

  6. Donít be afraid to confront people who gossip about you.

Part 2: At Home Survival Guide

A judicious silence is always better than truth spoken without charity.
- Francis de Sales

Every ounce of energy that you spend being kind to your loved ones is an investment in your own happiness.

People can be cruelest to the ones they love the most. No one plans it that way; itís just that at home we behave in ways that we wouldnít elsewhere.

If people stopped to think about it, they would ideally want to treat their family like royalty. But all too often, economic factors necessitate kindness to the boss and relegate whatever energy is left over to the family . . . not a good setup for success.

Now hereís the good news. There is something far more valuable to your loved ones than whether you hang up your clothes, prepare a nice meal, or take out the garbage. There is one thing you can do that will earn the devotion of your family, roommates, and friends: speak kindly to them. Once you start, your life will never be the same.

Dan & Colleen

Dan handed his wife, Colleen, a drink as they talked with a friend. The subject changed to the friendís sonís college graduation. Colleen winced and looked away. She had always wanted to earn her BA, but responsibilities of life had intervened.

Dan joked, "Hurts to see somebody get what you never got, eh?"

Colleen turned red with anger and embarrassment. "Well, if you hadnít quit your job, I could have finished my degree, Mr. High-school-drop-out-loser."

What could Colleen have done differently?

  1. Colleen could have turned to her friend and explained why she didnít get her college degree.

  2. Colleen could have bitten her tongue, changed the subject, and then spoken to her husband about his comment in private.

  3. Colleen could have walked out of the room.
  1. Danís hurtful words would not have been repaired by saving face with a friend. The quicker the uncomfortable conflict is over, the better.

  2. This is the best answer. Colleen should have spoken privately to Dan to let him know how his cutting remark hurt her feelings. Such conversations are best handled calmly, in private, and with the goal of resolving the conflict without hurting the other personís feelings.

  3. This would have made the friend feel very uncomfortable.
Being kind when itís hardest is the mark of a great person.

Kate & Arlene

If you and your friends give the cold shoulder to someone, it seems to create a bond. But what it really creates is mistrust and fear.

Kate ran into the living room and yelled to her mother, "Arlene stole my pen set out of my locker!"

Her mother looked at her with anger. "Isnít that the same girl who took your make-up kit last year?"

Kate nodded and got on the phone to tell all of her friends about Arleneís theft.

What could Kate have done differently?

  1. Kate could have told her mother about the theft in order to get help, but not phoned all of her friends.

  2. Kate could have tried to forget about the pen set. People are more important than things.

  3. Kate could have said, "Somebody stole my new pen set out of my locker."
  1. This is one good solution, but not the best.

  2. Kate has a right to be upset. People are more important than things, but when we are wronged, it is appropriate to try to rectify the situation.

  3. This is the best answer. Getting consoled by her mother was important, but it was not necessary to speak badly of Arlene. If Kate had real proof that Arlene was the thief, then Kate should have confronted her directly and asked her to return it and stop stealing. If the behavior were to continue, Kate should report it to Arleneís parents or to the appropriate people at their school.

Jeremy & Charlene

Itís amazing what people will do for a laugh. Their few moments of malicious pleasure can hurt someone forever.

Jeremy and Charlene had been dating for about a month. One afternoon, they went to Charleneís cousinís barbeque. All of her friends were there, and Jeremy felt a little uncomfortable. He came back into the living room with his fourth hot dog and found Charlene laughing with her girlfriends. Because Jeremy was overweight, he had the impression that they were laughing at him.

He gritted his teeth and yelled, "Charlene ainít so pretty either without ten tons of make-up."

What could Jeremy have done differently?

  1. Jeremy could have asked to talk to Charlene privately.

  2. Jeremy could have sat down and ignored the laughing.

  3. Jeremy could have asked what they were laughing about before jumping to conclusions.
  1. This is the best answer. In private, he could have told Charlene that her laughing with her friends made him feel bad.

  2. Ignoring it wouldnít have made Jeremyís bad feelings go away. That laughter would echo in his ears for a long time.

  3. The friends would likely not admit their cruelty, so asking would have been futile.

Cloe & Marc

Cloe and Marc were riding bikes in front of the house. Marc, who had just gotten his training wheels off, swerved into Cloe, causing her to crash into a tree. She ran into the house with a bloody knee, screaming, "Marc crashed into me!"

Cloe wailed to her mother at the top of her lungs, and poor Marc, who came running in after her, was frightened by what he had done to his sister. Cloe called him some pretty mean names, and it was a long time before Marc got on his bike again.

What could Cloe have done differently?

  1. Cloe could have said, "Somebody crashed into me."

  2. Cloe could have recognized that it was an accident and not made Marc feel so badly.

  3. Cloe could have refrained from calling him names.
  1. This approach is good, but her mother likely knew who Cloe was biking with.

  2. This is the best answer. In the heat of the moment, itís hard not to be angry at someone, but Cloe should still be taught that this is the correct behavior to work toward.

  3. This is also a good answer. Name-calling only makes a situation worse, and then it takes longer for the damage to heal.
Telling to get help to fix the situation is fine. Tattling when no help is needed is pure gossip.

After a dinner party with friends, many people have a good laugh at everyoneís expense. Then they wonder why they feel so lonely.

Evelyn & Carl

Evelyn and Carl drove home from their friendsí dinner party, and Evelyn commented about how terrible the food was. She then said the hostís husband looked more bald than ever.

What could Evelyn have done differently?

  1. Evelyn could have tried to appreciate the fact that she has friends at all.

  2. Evelyn could have called the host and shared some cooking tips with her.

  3. Evelyn could have refrained from saying anything to her husband, but instead told her out-of-town sister who doesnít even know them.
  1. This is the best answer. Many people make a habit of insulting their friends to their spouse. One way to rid yourself of this habit is to imagine that your friends are sitting in the room listening to you insult them.

  2. Unasked-for advice is almost always a bad idea.

  3. This is a poor second choice, but if Evelyn felt the need to speak badly of others, saying "someone" to her sister would have been better than denigrating her friends to her husband.

Jody & Brian

Jody was graduating from law school, and her brother Brian, who had never finished college, was jealous of her accomplishment. At Jodyís graduation, Brian sat in the stands with their father and told him that Jody was too ruthless to ever find a nice husband, and that Jodyís friends all seemed to be untrustworthy. The comments ruined their fatherís enjoyment of the ceremony.

What could Brian have done differently?

  1. Brian could have told his father how wonderful he thought Jody was.
  2. Brian could have told Jody to her face how he felt about her.

  3. Brian could have simply kept quiet during the graduation.
  1. While this would have been nice, Brian was likely feeling too jealous to pull this off sincerely.

  2. This would have certainly crushed Jody. The truth is, Jody didnít need to know Brianís feelings about her on her graduation day.

  3. This is the best answer. Often our jealousies and emotions make us say things we donít mean to say about the people we love.
Why is it that we have the harshest words for those we love the most? If we take the time to think before we speak, we would have a lot less to regret.

At Home Survival Guide

  1. When in doubt, change the subject and talk with your spouse later in private.

  2. Say "somebody," so you can vent without causing damage.

  3. Just donít laugh if the joke is at someone elseís expense.

  4. Try not to exaggerate the pain someone causes you. Even if you are right, that is not an excuse to make someone else feel bad.

  5. Appreciate your friendships, and you will never feel lonely.

  6. Never underestimate the power of remaining silent.


Home |  Take the Pledge |  Free Newsletter |  Get the Handbook |  Watch The Video |  Tell A Friend
About Us |  For the Press |  Missions

© Copyright 2001 by Words Can Heal