Just between you and me…

A wise old friend of mine once gave me a valuable piece of advice. He said: “When you’re listening, don’t stick around to hear the end of a sentence which begins with ‘Just between you and me’…and when you’re speaking, never be so stupid as to end a sentence that begins with the same.” That little phrase, “Just between you and me” or put differently “You have to keep this between us,” is the shoe horn which eases destructive gossip into an otherwise generative conversation.

What most often follows “Just between you and me” is a concern about someone who is not within earshot (you hope). Preceding such statements is typically a glance over the shoulder to see if the coast is clear and such words are usually delivered in hushed tone.

Why do people gossip in this way? Part of it is that they’re afraid to address the issue out in the open, face-to-face, with the person they’re concerned about. It is a form of social cowardice. Behind that fear is a fear of pressure or perhaps even of rejection should the parties fail to come to a constructive agreement.

Gossip, both well-intetioned and maliciously crafted, is the cheap way to manage friends, family and associates. You’ve no doubt experience the fact that whenever you shortchange your integrity or take a shortcut under the rationalization that the end justifies the means, you devalue your personal worth, both internally and in the eyes of others. There is only one way to manage your affairs rightly: with honor, dignity, respect, genuineness and transparency.

Such an approach says to another about whom you are concerned or with whom you are frustrated: “Brother (or sister), if what I am perceiving is correct, I feel that a change is necessary here.” Rather than going behind the back of those whom you love and respect at critical moments, meet them squarely and voice your concern carefully. Frame it in a way that it is most likely to be received and not rejected by the defense mechanisms that will likely be in place to protect the weaknesses in those around you. Don’t be a pussyfooter; state your concern cleanly, succinctly and humbly and then shut up. Let the process unfold from that still place you create.

What really do you have to lose? If anything, you have everything to gain. The problem will either be solved or all involved will be clear as to what the concerns are. There will be no secrets, not intrigue, no politicking, hidden meaning or double-talk. Wouldn’t that be a nicer place to live than what we have now on earth?

Some might say, “Oh that is a naive thought. If you acted that way anybody and everybody with a crooked agenda would take advantage of you.” I say, nay nay. You cannot con an honest man for he has nothing to hide, nothing to lose and nothing to gain. Others might say, “If you were so transparent with people they might take offense and you might lose their friendship, business, influence, etc.” I would agree that such departures would result in a loss, but not in the negative sense. You would lose only that which burdens you and slows your forward movement.

If you manage your life rightly, each and every day you live will be the worst day of the rest of your life. Being the worst does not mean that it will be bad, of course, and the fact is that you can and should move from glory unto glory in your living.

6 thoughts on “Just between you and me…

  1. Steve Ventola

    Thanks Gregg, your words your clear articulation of the call to live an uncommon life in the common world. Your words to bring to remembrance right and honorable action.

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  2. Colin

    It is really unfortunate that the approach you described is revolutionary, but there are just not very many people who are willing to live with the temporary discomfort that comes with such an approach. Living with integrity, which includes not partaking in things like gossip, does not allow you to be a person who flies under the radar. There are just some things that cannot be allowed to be a part of a righteous person’s life. Not that you have to be self righteous and blabbing about it all the time, but a life of quiet integrity still makes a very loud splash in a world where following the herd is encouraged.

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  3. David R

    To be creatively candid with others is a true art form, given the latticeworks of deception and self-deception that overlay virtually everyone’s view. The right word or phrase is both disarming of what is outdated or dangerous while at the same time supportive of what is true and right in the other person. It is the difference between a blunt-force object and a crafted tool, but above all it is a matter of motivation, the spirit of the word. This is a worthy subject for creative thought and wise action.

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  4. Kolya

    I love this approach. It has never been a comfortable situation to me to be invited into a “just between us” conversation. I don’t like to talk about other people and appreciate your advice to keep things in the open, which is actually, the only way we can truly help.

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  5. MMc

    This type of an approach, putting your cards on the table, would be a shock to most family relationships never mind those further a field. Being honest with each other is often shelved by thoughts of not wanting to hurt someone or perhaps thinking the other person wouldn’t understand but usually as it turns out the issue in question becomes the elephant in living room or a layer of “mud” that begins the separation that only deepens with time. It is worth the risk because you’ll soon having nothing anyway as this rift becomes a chasm. Love and trust are the power that fuels a meaningful relationship. That said it is delicate work to mend fences but the outcome is worth it if you can regain a brother or sister. I noticed you prefaced the beginning of this sensivtive dialoge with “Brother (or sister), if what I am perceiving is correct…”. Humility is always a vital component to a loving relationship. This is really such a crucial conversation Gregg, thanks.

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