By Laura Zigman

10 things to do instead of talking behind someone's back


We all do it. In all its glorious forms. Gossiping. Dissing. Trash-talking. But no matter what we call it, and no matter how fun it can be to let off a little harmless steam every now and then, making a habit out of negativity seems like a waste of precious life energy. While you don't have to go totally cold-turkey on snark, sarcasm, and casting a critical side-eye on much of modern life's idiocies, we'd recommend a tiny change in behavior:

The next time you're in negativity's clutches -- at the office, with friends, with your spouse or significant other -- replaying the day's latest interpersonal aggravations -- be the person who doesn't talk about others behind their backs. Even when those others might be (and often, they are) worthy of criticism. Be kind. Instead, be the person who always tries to see the good in others; who gives everyone the benefit of the doubt, who employs compassion instead of criticism. When the furtive judge-y whispering begins and the dark-arts-fun is about to go full-swing, borrow from the toolkit of the generous-of-spirit and do these 10 things to rise above the roiling cauldron of negativity:

1. Go silent and notice how epically clean you already feel knowing you're not getting sucked into a whirlpool of negativity. Give yourself big points for restraining yourself from being judge-y and critical. Decide on a little treat to give yourself as a reward for resisting negativity.

2. Since your lips are closed and not moving, take the opportunity to put some lip balm on them.

3. Close your eyes and take 5 deep cleansing breaths. With each one, imagine you're erasing all your gossipy small-minded nit-picky thoughts from a giant chalk board. Enjoy the clean slate of your soul.

4. Revel in the positivity and peace of mind that comes from knowing you won't have anything to feel guilty about later on when you replay the conversation in your head.

5. Think of at least 3 positive things about the annoying person being talked about.

6. If you're 2 positive-things short, come up with 3 compassionate reasons to explain why the annoying person being discussed is so annoying. 

7. If you're 3 positive-things short, engage in 'radical compassion' to accept their difficult behavior by thinking about this quotation: "Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle" (Plato). Remember that we can never completely know the private pain of the people we come in contact with on a daily basis and that it's this lack of knowledge that should be the lens through which we see the world and everyone in it.

8. Remember that nobody's perfect. Yourself included. Think of all the ways people could -- and likely do! -- talk about you behind your back.

9. Be mindful of what it feels like to resist a negative urge (gossiping) and how relatively easy it is to replace it with a positive one (kindness). 

10. Remember how good kindness feels -- how it opens your heart instead of shriveling it. Pledge to make it your rule instead of your exception.


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