“Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a harder battle” – Plato
Lets face it, we live in a world where gossip stimulates the media we watch, read and bond with friends over. Society has been conditioned to ostracize the weak or ill-mannered members of our social groups and we do so by spreading negative thoughts and information about those people. Sometimes these are people we call our friends and family. With that being said, your homework this week is to rise above (what has become) social norms and turn off that negativity.
Spend this week avoiding conversations where hurtful or negative topics might present themselves about the people you know, and even those you don’t! If a negative comment comes up about someone over dinner, offer kind things to say to defend them in their absence. If you happen to be driving behind someone who probably should have those hazards on, take a deep breath and give them the benefit of the doubt. The energy it takes to get us worked up about things others do, can be better spent in the positive and creative realms of our life.
This will be a challenge for a lot of us for a few reasons (but none good enough to give up!). Its possible we might begin to feel ostracized ourselves by taking a stance against the negativity, but everyone needs someone to defend their character in their absence. Offer another side to the perspective and play devils advocate by delicately offering another frame of mind. Be careful not to be too preachy or haughty in your delivery, this will better persuade others to change their mindset if they aren’t feeling attacked. Finding other ways to bond with friends (besides gossiping) can also be a challenge. Instead, get to know the person you are spending time with rather than chatting about an absent third party. Ask them questions and spend your time opening up about one another. Its better than hashing up an issue about someone that can’t be resolved without them present. We all hope someone would defend us in our absence, why not offer that same courtesy to others?
Our mothers all taught us, “If we don’t have anything nice to say then we might as well say nothing at all”. Take your mothers advice this week and lets give that saying the longevity it deserves.
By Lori Gottlieb