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Taming the Toxic Tongue: the Perils of Badmouthing in Business

So yesterday a friend called to share a truly uncomfortable experience with a total stranger who reached out to her to badmouth a mutual business partner. The guy—a CEO, by the way—initially contacted her via social media and was hesitant to give her any information, preferring to speak over the phone. Red Flag #1 —he didn’t want to put anything in writing.

nancy mendelson hertelier

They arranged to speak and, as I mentioned, my friend found the conversation extremely troubling, especially given that her experience had been positive…nothing like the badmouther was recounting. He trashed the guy! Red Flag #2 —sour grapes! What was this guy’s agenda?

Me: “So, what was his point…what did he want from you?

Friend: “Basically to beware, and now I feel like he has put me in a terrible position.”

Let’s face it, when someone badmouths a person you know, they are planting a seed of doubt. What happens with that seed has everything to do with you and what you do with that information.

“Don’t get sucked in from the start. Talking bad about others is toxic and infectious. It can start with one person, then spread to many just like a flu,” advises MAP Consulting in a post titled, Don’t Badmouth Others, “Wash your hands of the behavior by avoiding it altogether or chart out, or devise in advance, smart tactics for changing the communication course. This will send the message that you’re not interested in this idle, self-defeating chatter.”

nancy mendelson hertelier

Thankfully, after much discussion, my friend decided to do nothing at all, because this guy —and I repeat, a CEO —had behaved unprofessionally, and quite frankly if anyone was to be mistrusted, it was him!

In her article, The Fundamentals of Badmouthing: A Sign of Personal Weakness, author Diana Giorgetti says, “ Badmouthing others allows them to insert an outside influence on a situation they might otherwise not be able to control. Criticizing or ostracizing others gives them power, but it’s a power that comes from fear, intimidation, and a whole other cluster of anti-social traits that form part of a common strategy used by people who like to manipulate and intimidate others,” and adds, “In other words, these people are bullies.”

So, the joke’s on the big badmouthing bully who tried to put my friend in an uncomfortable position. Happily, she’s professional, has integrity, a conscience, and didn’t nurture the seed of doubt he tried to plant. Basically, dude, she has just given you the metaphorical finger, and on her behalf (because she hates to curse and I don’t) I say, FUCK YOU!

1 Comment

Nico Sheers
Nico Sheers
Jul 05, 2023

I agree, bad mouthing people or just being chronically negative is infectious and can do a lot of damage. The "one bad apple" syndrome.

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