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.