Be More: Turn Gossip Into Direct Communication

It’s always great to hear from past and current clients about how they utilize my work and writing personally and within their organizations. And sometimes I get a surprise, as I did last week when I received an email from someone I’d never met — an employee in a major global financial institution. The financial institution included my Checklist for Managing Difficult Conversations in a regional communication program encouraging staff to “Be More.”

In the 9-day program, there were a number of challenges participants had to complete that helped them “Be More” in important aspects of their leadership and communication.

Under the heading of “Be More Honest,” the company explored the topic of gossip and encouraged staff to take the challenge to reach out to talk to someone directly if they felt the urge to “gossip” about someone. They then reported their experiences, which the employee gave me permission to share:

The Challenge

Gossip needs to be shared most with the person about whom you’re gossiping. If you feel tempted to talk about someone today, talk to them instead.

Reflect and Share

What impact could this action have on yourself, others and the overall organization?

Sample Comments:

· Done, but it wasn’t so easy a task ;)

· I always try to avoid it, but at times [gossip] is an opportunity to vent. And… it can have an adverse effect at developing relationships…You just need to be mature enough to know when it goes from harmless gossip to harmful bullying.

· Power of direct feedback is great :) Thanks.

· The most helpful thing about these kinds of conversations, when they’re done skillfully, is that they often strengthen relationship and open up possibility, when the very reason we shy away from having them is our fear that they will destroy both. My experience has been that when we can offer our view of a situation as a perspective and not as a judgment, and be open to hearing someone else’s truth, a conversation we’ve been dreading as potentially ‘difficult’ can often be anything but.

Wise words.
And I appreciate the title of the program: “Be More.” When we step up to a difficult conversation, that’s exactly what happens. We become more courageous, thoughtful, and intentional. It’s easy to gossip, and sometimes it’s fun — it creates a kind of connection with the person your gossiping with. And… does it really resolve anything? Could you be more direct and, by doing so, “strengthen the relationship and open up possibility?” Why not talk to the right person?

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