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Eliminate Trash Talk for Greater Success 

By Jack Perry

Sadly, trash talk is an inevitable part of life for far too many people. Especially in business, some people always seem to have something negative to say about their competition, their co-workers, or their clients. Regardless of how much trash people talk, it never has a positive outcome. It destroys trust and often comes back to haunt you.

Why do people talk trash? They might feel inferior, they might have had an important mentor somewhere along the way who chose to trash his competition, or they might believe that trash talking is an appropriate way to advance their career. But it isn't appropriate, especially in business situations. You must avoid trash talk at all costs, because in the end, you'll regret it. Whoever hears you talking trash-your customers, prospects, co-workers, employees, etc.-will feel as if they can't trust you. They won't respect you, and they won't see you in a professional light. Worse, you won't be able to respect yourself.

So what can you do to stop the trash talk you hear and to prevent yourself from talking it as well? Consider the following situations and strategies.

Situation #1: Someone Wants You to Talk Trash on Another Person: As part of the human condition, people periodically have negative thoughts and feelings about other people: their boss, their competitor. But you can, if you choose, rise above these negative thoughts. When you let a negative comment slip out of your mouth, think about the message you just sent out…is that the way you want to be perceived? Make a conscious commitment to diminish this type of behavior.

You can also avoid talking negatively by removing yourself from gossip groups. You know who these people are; they always have some kind of dirt on someone else. It is their mindset. They hang around during coffee breaks and talk about anyone who isn't present. When you associate with these people, they will only try to get you involved.

They'll ask, "So what is the new guy really like?" You know what they are really asking; they want you to say something negative. Before you get sucked in to their trash talking session, change the subject. Use a non sequitur. You can say, "The weather is so nice today, don't you agree?" Or, "You know what happened to me in the grocery store last night?" Now the conversation has a new direction.

Three kinds of minds exist in this world. Small minds just talk about people. Medium minds talk about things. But the great minds talk about ideas. When someone wants to lead you down the trash-talking road, change the subject to something completely neutral. Then you won't say anything you might regret later.

Situation #2: You Hear Someone Talking Trash: Trash talk is a reality you have to deal with, unless you sequester yourself from other people. Part of building your reputation for positive talk means stopping trash talk when you hear it taking place. If you hear a person talking trash about a friend or team member of yours, you can easily stop it by approaching the trash talker. Say something like, "You know, she's my friend and I would rather you didn't talk about her like that." This will stop the conversation and make these people think twice about talking trash in the future, and they will respect you for doing the right thing.

However, not all trash talk is so blatant. Some people say negative things in a sneaky way where you can't always tell if they are talking trash. These people are so competitive, they want the limelight so badly, that they can't contain themselves, and they let little deadly comments drop here and there. These people can't be stopped; they are going to let their negative comments slip, and all you can do is prepare yourself for it and leave the scene. You need to be on guard for these types because their motives are difficult to prove. You can always give people the benefit of the doubt, but you should choose your words carefully when you are in their presence.

Situation #3: You're Tempted to Talk Trash: When someone rubs you the wrong way and you feel as if you'll have a heart attack if you don't vent, negative talk is almost always inevitable. In a business setting, if you have the responsibility to provide your input on a decision, you should be timely and candid about your feelings. If you need to give input on whether to continue using a vendor or whether to keep an employee, negative comments might be appropriate. But you need to use the right language. Character assassination is not necessary. There's a difference between citing flaws and being snide.

Speak in a business sense. Explain what the person does that is acceptable and what is unacceptable. In this situation, negative talk is necessary. But timely, candid comments about how you feel about what should be done in the case of an individual are completely appropriate.

However, if you're at a conference table or in a similar setting and another member of your team is making you angry for some reason, then firing back negative bullets is not appropriate. Bite your tongue and remove yourself from the situation. You can go outside and scream, jump up and down, or whatever else it takes to release your negative feelings. Get it out of your system.

If you absolutely must express your feelings to another person, make sure you choose someone you can really confide in. Don't release your negative feelings about a person in a counterproductive way that could end up hurting you. And always be careful of what you say to whom. If you talk trash on one of your team members to another team member, somewhere down the road, the person you confided in might betray your trust. This is just human nature. A situation like this could cost you a promotion or some other valuable opportunity.

You might be able to confide in your spouse, but this presents challenges as well. You have to be aware of how the negativity you bring home from work affects your relationships with your family. While you might feel compelled to share your feelings, consider whether that makes your marriage any stronger. Sometimes, you're just better off going to the park and shouting out your negative feelings. The trees can't talk.

Stop Your Trash Talking for Good: In business, you win by taking the high road, you win with skills, you win with ethical actions, and you win by solving your clients' problems. You don't win by trash talking your competition. The only thing you get from negative talk is a bad reputation and a loss of respect. So commit yourself to eliminating any trash talk, and take pride in talking positively about other people.

Use these strategies to overcome other people's negative talk and your own temptations to slip occasionally. When you do, you will build character and a positive reputation that will take your career to the next level of success…you will like the person in the mirror.

Read other articles and learn more about Jack Perry.

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