Look it's happened to us all. We are frustrated, dismayed, annoyed or even pi**ed off, and we say that thing about someone else. It’s happened to me. It’s happened to you. It happened to Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg last week.
In a CNN interview she called Presidential Candidate Donald Trump, “a faker who makes things up as he goes along.” Immediately, people I know and respect who are RBG supporters disagreed with her statements. The next day, she apologized for her public commentary.
While her conduct was inappropriate under the Code of Conduct for US Judges, she is entitled to her opinion.
Over the years I’ve been asked, what I think about so and so, or this and that – you know the kind of inquiries that have an underlying intention of malice. People who come to me asking about so and so and this and that quickly realize that my replies don’t do much to fuel the quest for drama or conflict, or supporting evidence for why something or someone sucks.
While few of us will ever be a Supreme Court Justice operating under a Code of Conduct or be interviewed on CNN, we all can take these 3 lessons from RBGs commentary and apology:
Just don’t say it. Sometimes what we say about others is more a reflection on ourselves than it is on them.
The object of your commentary will ALWAYS find out. Always. Even if it’s not broadcast on CNN. Don’t say anything about anyone that you wouldn’t say to them were they not in the same room with you. (My mom taught me this when I was 6. Sometimes I need to be reminded, as you will read below.)
When they hear about your statements and confront you, don’t deny you said it. Own it. “You are correct, I did say that and I think there is some context that might reframe what was said.” (If in fact there is context. If there isn't, apologize and don't do it again.)
Awhile ago, I was at a business event a woman’s name came up as we were discussing passion and conviction in building and growing a business. I said, “She is kinda crazy.” The group chuckled and laughed as we sipped our complimentary cocktails. I continued on, “I mean seriously, any of us who pursue our calling with that kind of intense passion are kinda crazy too.”
A few weeks later at another event this business woman marched up to me and said, “So….you think I’m crazy?!” And went on to tell me all the things she thought of me.
When she finished I looked at her and apologized. There was no other option.
I did in fact say she was kind of crazy. I say a lot of people are kinda crazy. It’s not an insult. However without context, how would she know that?
Once I apologized I then asked if I could share the context. Fortunately she said yes, she soon realized that I had no ill will towards her. Saying she was kinda crazy was a compliment. But not the best choice of words. Lesson learned.
Have you ever said something in business that got back to someone else? How did you address it and what was the result?
Debbie Page Whitlock is a business coach and leading authority on cash flow for women entrepreneurs, and writes on all things related to creating sustainable, scalable and potentially salable businesses and other useful bits of business wisdom she’s acquired on her 20 year entrepreneurial odyssey.