Groups and Gossip
The person who drills a hole under his/her own seat in the boat will end up drowning everyone on board.
Gossip is to groups what termites are to a house. The groups which need the most support right now - from within and without - are the U.S. military and their families. However, as the letter below shows, even such a worthy group as spouses of deployed soldiers can be devastated by gossip, to the detriment of everyone involved.
We'd love to hear from you if you have an anecdote about how Words Can Heal is transforming/enhancing your life and/or if you have developed any innovations in implementing our ideals. Send your account (brief and relevant, please) to firstname.lastname@example.org. Communicating your own real-life experiences can help us help all of you to communicate better. That's real teamwork!
Some groups (such as family, neighborhood, apartment building) we belong to fortuitously. All other groups we join for a purpose. The purpose of a business is to earn money; the purpose of a political group is to advance a particular political agenda; the purpose of a social club is to provide camaraderie and activities of common interest.
Whatever the purpose, when gossip infects a group, it not only hurts the individuals involved (those speaking, those listening, and those gossiped about), but also sabotages the very purpose of the group.
To get some idea of the damage gossip can do to a company, consider this: If, in a company of 200 employees, each employee spent one hour a day trading gossip (under the guise of "shooting the breeze" or "networking"), the company would lose approximately $160,000 a month in lost productivity. (See WCH Workplace Kit-Fact Sheet: http://r.vresp.com/?WordsCanHeal.org/bfad4f7bae
The damage gossip inflicts, however, goes much deeper than dollars and cents. All groups function on a basis of mutual trust. Gossip undermines trust as surely as termites eat away at the structure of a house-invisibly, insidiously, and irreparably. When a group which should be working as a team is riddled with gossip, the purpose of the team-be it profit, a worthy cause, or mutual support-suffers.
The following letter that WCH received a few months after September 11, is particularly tragic because just when this group should have been giving vital support to a particularly vulnerable population-women whose husbands are serving in the U.S. Army--gossip exploded the group as surely as a terrorist bomb.
My name is Lynn. I am a military spouse living in upstate New York. I lead a Ladies Luncheon Group to support spouses of deployed soldiers. These are very trying times for military wives. Many are given only hours to say goodbye before their husbands are whisked off to "Operation Enduring Freedom." The 10th Mountain Division here at Ft. Drum has many families not knowing where family members are or when they might return from overseas. The stress can be overwhelming. For this reason I have invited women to come together, share stories, plan family activities, and support one another.
But, just before the holidays, the group went sour. Gossip and misunderstandings caused hard feelings. Our mission and focus were lost. Some women stopped coming and others alienated the women who did attend. Needless to say, I was deeply saddened.
I have been searching for a way to convince these very lonely and afraid ladies that we need one another and we should come together. I am hoping that your organization is the answer. I will introduce your thoughts and ideals to the group. I am hoping that each of them will see the power of the spoken word and take your pledge. I wholly believe that our words can change the world. I hope to bring new hope to our group. God Bless America.
1. Introduce the ideals of Words Can Heal in your office, club, social action movement, etc. Get a few copies of the handbook (available from www.amazon.com) and pass them around.
2. Post reminder signs around your office or meeting place: Changing your words can transform your life. Who gossips to you will gossip of you. Lets replace words that hurt with words that heal.
3. Introduce one hour a week as a gossip-free zone in the workplace cafeteria or wherever your group meets. Have the group choose a good-natured way of reminding those who slip up, just as you would politely remind someone who lights up a cigarette in a no-smoking zone. (Eg. flash a no-gossip version of the no-smoking sign or call out a code word like teamwork.)
4. Use teamwork methods to devise a Words Can Heal program which will work for your group. Always start small (e.g. no gossip for one hour a week) and work your way up gradually. Reward success (e.g. lunch out at a nice restaurant at the companys expense).
5. Remember: A group which functions without gossip is more apt to accomplish its purpose.
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