Do you spend a lot of time listing the negative traits of others around you? Maybe you need to stop. Here’s why.
In a research study, participants watched a video where an actor talking about an acquaintance. He described negative traits about this acquaintance, such as “he hates animals.” He talked about how this acquaintance walked up to a store and kicked a puppy that was in his way. The entire monologue concerned the acquaintance, not the actor who was speaking.
However, when participants were asked to rate the personality of the speaker, they consistently attributed the negatives traits to him.
This is known as “spontaneous trait transference,” and it clearly illustrates the negative potential of gossiping about others. When you are listing negative characteristics of another person, the people listening to you are actually associating those traits with you.
I know leaders who spend too much time mocking other colleagues and leaders. They get a quick laugh, a wink, and often become popular (if charming enough). However, people will soon tire of the negativity. In the meantime, the leader that has been positive about others will build respect and a following.
This information might not surprise you, but it’s a good reminder. The next time you are listing all of the negative qualities about a friend or colleague to someone, remember that those comments are a boomerang that’s coming right back to define you.
Our words are boomerangs, and will come back to us.
The question is, what kind of boomerang are you throwing out?