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The fog of division, discord, and blame made it hard to see what lies ahead (Clint Eastwood).

While watching the news I noticed that an extraordinary degree of political ads were negative – for some candidates, in the ninety-nine percent range. “Talking heads” remarked how effective the spots were in achieving their goals. Due to the disproportionate punch of unattractive information, our tendency is to lash out and “return the favor.” Political candidates who choose to do otherwise have suffered the consequences.

At work, do you run your own negative ad campaign against others? Do you use your verbal capacity for good, or do you instead run your mouth in an attempt to run others into the ground? The tongue was never intended to be a double edged sword, but rather a tool that enlightens, uplifts, encourages, and protects. It’s a communication vehicle that (used wisely) connects to other people.

Nepo in “The Book of Awakening” provides an example of connection’s most primary components: e.g., if two unrelated blood cells are placed in a Petrie dish, they will conjoin and beat as one.

I’m curious as to why we conduct ourselves in a manner that undercuts this most basic premise. Perhaps that’s why abuse feels so bad – we know in our gut that this is not the natural order of things. Self-expression between partners has evolved into a form of self-defense – a non-combative way of putting up our dukes. More disturbingly, we witness verbal attacks on a daily basis – the equivalent of sucker punches at work. These violations can be even more devastating if they’re conducted behind the scenes.

Sucker punches are the stock and trade of cowards. In the movie “Enough,” the protagonist asks her abuser “Are you that much of a coward that the only time you can hit me is when I’m not expecting it?” Snitches, saboteurs, and stalkers fall into this category. If they had decency they would talk to you when other people could hear it, interact with you when other people could see it, and speak to you throughout the year (instead of saving nasty surprises for year-end). Regarding performance, give your compatriots a fighting chance to fix what’s wrong, instead of yelling “gotcha” at a later time.

The underhanded want to ensure that you’re controlled – and more importantly – that they’re in control. In a flattened hierarchy companies give employees the controls – and trust them with the results.

Productive relationships are based on trust, and trust in turn is predicated on predictable behavior. Individuals who violate this norm may achieve short term gains – but never reap lasting regard from those around them.

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All viewpoints expressed by Jackie Gilbert are her own, and not of her employer.

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