by Jenny Devine, Collaborator, Play Contemporary Leadership Colab
Call it what you will – having a bit of a go at someone, a whinge, a bitch, a download, a rant – the human desire to share negative thoughts about another, with someone they trust, is very strong. It may be a seemingly innocuous but loaded observation such as “I think John got out of bed on the wrong side this morning!” or a more detailed conversation such as this one between two team members about their boss.
“Did you see her face when Tom talked about the numbers? She just couldn’t stop gloating,” remarked Lisa to her colleague Tom about her boss.
“Yeah, she acts like it’s her sole achievement. It’s like, hello – have you noticed you have a team who’ve been working their arses off for the last six weeks?”
“I know. As long as she gets the glory everything’s fine. I’m so over this actually. I’d love to tell her what I think.”
“Yeah- I’d love to see her face then.”
Whatever the nature of the remark or dialogue the energy and potency of the conversation builds when two or more become actively involved in it – as the work colleagues Tom and Lisa indicate. If on the other hand the listener or listeners remain silent, passive or non-committal the diatribe is likely to run itself out more quickly. Should a listener actively challenge the initiator on their opinion, then a very different – and sometimes heated conversation – is likely to take place.
So what is it about us that drives this need to share negative observations about others? We know it goes on all over the world in every possible setting -in fact wherever two or more human beings are gathered or connected.
The key to understanding this human trait is to understand the nature of our old “friend” the ego. Best understood as our self-constructed identity and belief system, the ego is a fragile and neurotic part of us that exists in an illusory capacity. Fixed in time it describes a static “Me” or “I”. We can recognise our ego by tuning into our thinking; for most of us, we realise pretty quickly that egoic thoughts come thick and fast – many of them repetitive and of little value to us. “I think therefore I am” says the ego.
Inherently dysfunctional in nature and unable to draw from any internal emotional or spiritual sustenance, it looks to the outside world to feed it. And its fuel is anything that inflates its sense of self-worth – or in other words, it constantly looks for something that will make it feel better about itself. So, by attacking others – their behaviour, looks, choices or way of being – the ego receives the gift of superiority. And getting someone “on-side” to join in the attack, is validation. This is when it becomes dangerous – the ego starts believing its own spin.
Like any repeated behaviour, once begun, the habit becomes hard to break. Unfortunately, being an insatiable entity, its desire for the “feel-good” is unlimited. But the kick it gets from a hit of bitching is short-lived. So before long, it will be at it again.
But here’s a few reasons why breaking the habit is worth a go:
- we can take responsibility for our own negative thinking and hold a mirror up to ourselves, an opportunity for positive change
- we put our emotional energy into something that is productive or worthwhile and the feelgood factor will be longer lasting.
- we maintain our integrity – this is a natural way to feel better about ourselves. Bitching has a certain toxicity.
- we contribute to emotionally and mentally healthier homes, workplaces, and communities
- if there’s something that needs to be communicated to the person who has “upset” us we can choose to have a direct conversation or take whatever action is required
- we are great role models for kids, friends, partners, and colleagues
- we uphold the great adage “do unto others as you would have them do unto you”
And last but not least…we begin to form a kinder and wiser relationship with who we are at our very essence. As the great teacher of consciousness, the Buddha shared with us: “You yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection”
Jenny Devine works as an executive and leadership coach and facilitator across a range of industries. Her core area of interest and expertise is Conscious Leadership and how the essence of leadership mastery requires an essential intrinsic shift. She challenges her clients to gain self-insight through understanding their conditioned modes of operating and how to consciously reset their dial. She has an M.A. Consciousness Studies, is a Certified Integrative Coach and is credentialed (PCC) by the International Coach Federation (ICF).
If you are wanting to fast track your development or simply suspect repeated patterns are tripping you up, then get in touch with Jenny Devine: firstname.lastname@example.org 021 1207166 or Sandy Burgham: email@example.com 021 871 699