I was having a discussion in one of my leadership classes today about how we sometimes talk about people behind their backs. There is damage done to relationships when individuals gossip about a third party who is not present. Here are some guidelines we can consider to change our attitudes and make the world a better place.

  1. Establish an environment of trust. Teach leaders to always reinforce candor and encourage others to do the same.
  2. Always assume the “mute button” is defective. That is, try to speak well of people even if they are not able to hear you.
  3. Be forthright if you have an issue with another person, but do in in a kind way using the Golden Rule.
  4. Do not engage in gossip about other people and inflame an existing conversation. Just opt out of these hurtful discussions when they come up.
  5. Remind people who want to denigrate other people how they would feel if someone was doing that to them.
  6. Try to establish a social norm in your sphere of influence that values people for their contributions rather than there deficiencies.
  7. Increase your ratio of positive to negative comments about other people. One good idea is to keep track of these for a week. Just put hash marks on a 3X5 card. Then change your ratio by at least 50%.
  8. Model openness with other people by discussing the habit of talking about people to their face rather than behind their backs.
  9. When there is a disconnect with another person, make it a habit to assume the best intent rather than the worst.
  10. Increase Transparency. Challenge any gag rule to see if it is really required. Often it is more of a paradigm than a necessity.

These tips are all common sense. The world would be a better place if we all made them common practice.