Ashley Davis Bush, LCSW wrote a great article about the benefits of speaking kindly of your ex with tips on how to do so.
I completely agree with her article, which closed:
“Remember that when you badmouth your ex you keep your energy hooked to that old, negative relationship. Instead, keep the flashlight of your attention on new growth, new patterns, and the new life waiting for you.”
Her piece got me thinking… Ya know, the real trick is to avoid folks who warrant badmouthing in the first place.
As I skimmed some of the recent comments one stood out and summed up my thoughts on folks who badmouth others, who tend to tempt folks to badmouth them:
“Badmouthers are badmouthers.
Badmouthers do what badmouthers do…
…What I suggest is that if you are dating someone, considering marriage, and you hear them badmouth others realize then that if you get married you can expect that at some point in the marriage you will become the subject of badmouthing.”
Time to zoom in focus on two little words in the comment:
Most of us would be punchy pleased to have people in our lives who only speak highly of others and us. Our pleasure isn’t how we form our friendships: Our spirit should be.
If your spirit is in the right place, you’ll choose folks of like spirit.
Honestly though, not everyone (myself included) is able to discern the spirit of a person upon introduction… Yet. I’m workin’ on it.
But you can’t just shut people out either. So what can you do to figure out early whether someone might have the dangerous character flaw of speaking poorly of you and others?
1. Be picky.
You could have all the tips in the world under your belt but the reality is, if you don’t have the time or space within the clutter of your relationships to apply them, it won’t matter. Don’t make yourself, your time, your heart available to just anyone. When you spend intimate time with too many different people it spreads you thin and clutters your spirit.
If someone isn’t adding something extraordinary to your life, they are detracting something extraordinary from it: You.
When you’re spending time with people who shouldn’t be in your life it takes away from time for yourself and for nurturing relationships with people who should remain in your life. A constant truth of any relationship is learning. Most of us think carefully about our education and the courses we choose to take, advancing toward our goal. Why would you commit to studying someone who wasn’t worth it?
We are magnetically attracted to people we are meant to interact with, even if their purpose is only to repel us toward someone we’re meant to be closer to. If you don’t feel a powerfully magnetic attraction to someone’s spirit don’t bother making yourself available to them.
2. Pay attention.
Yes. Once you hear someone badmouth anyone or thing, that will likely come around to you. There are other subtleties to look for. Learn to live with a self-awareness and mastery so keen you are unshakable. From that place, looks, wealth, charm, intelligence, athleticism, talent are no longer distractions from the reality of a person’s character and spirit. Notice a person’s focus, movements, reactions, expectations, speech, opinions, values and emotions. Recognize your natural response and continue learning about them. Eventually you’ll recognize patterns and if enough of them are matched with a negative response, that person should get less of your time. This can alert you to a mismatch far earlier than the obvious signs, which our tricky pals can sometimes mask for a loooooong time.
3. Ask questions.
I like to cut to the chase. Certain answers will tell you all you need to know about a person. Ask questions that help reveal a person’s character and be prepared to receive an honest response.
What are your closest friends like? Insert cliche about how important our closest relationships are here. There’s a reason it’s true: We naturally distance ourselves from things that war with our sense of self: There’s too much conflict to sustain comfortably. We naturally gravitate toward things like us.
How did your last relationship end? Of course this is a touchy subject… For people who haven’t really moved on. If they are able to respond to this question candidly and comfortably without speaking poorly of their ex that’s a good sign.
What do you admire and value most in others? The answer will line up neatly with what they aspire to. If they’re impressed by people who don’t care what anyone else thinks, and say or do whatever they want… There’s a good chance they’ll act this out during a time of crisis.
What are you like when you get upset? When we are in crisis, upset, afraid, etc. our representatives disappear and the truest version of ourselves comes to light. There’s no need to wait until you’ve eaten the last cupcake to find out they’re a dish-thrower. If someone explains they become anything other than calm and focused in crisis, there’s a good chance they come unhinged. That creates a breeding ground for hurtful behaviors, badmouthing included.
It’s wise to approach each relationship with the intent to learn first.
By starting out with the right person there’s less cleanup to do when the wrong folks move on and away.