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Am I as Good as My Word? 

By Paul C Pritchard on Thursday May 14th, 2020

Image: Ben White

Loose Lips Sink Integrity Ships

Daring greatly means the courage to be vulnerable. It means to show up and be seen. To ask for what you need. To talk about how you’re feeling. To have the hard conversations. – Brené Brown

The world is quieter in some areas and even louder in others. In times of uncertainty, there’s a lot of speculation, rumour, theories and hypotheticals that add to the noise of fact versus fiction debates. I have been watching how I participate in what is essentially a kind of gossip. Although I don’t practise malign gossip, I have to own that I am participating in a harmless chatter that at best could be called loose. And the old WWII poster slogan comes to mind, ‘Loose Lips Sink Ships.’ 

During these troubled times I am trying to not get lost in a wash of opinions and rhetoric that does not feel true for me. I am trying to remain quiet in my centre. I am trying to keep my integrity ship afloat. 

I am asking myself a few honest and confronting questions:

* How many of my words go out in the world with a simple unadulterated message of love that raises the vibration of human consciousness?  

* Could I be unwittingly participating in idle ‘gossip’ out of habit?

* What might happen if I bring awareness to making my words noble vehicles for peace? 

* What if I, with humility, just stopped the gossip game?

Alt text here Sometimes even harmless chatter could be called ‘loose’. Image: Public Domain

I turned to a trusted source, Brene Brown, for some heartfelt guidance. In her book, Braving the Wilderness, there’s a passage that struck a deep chord about how to stay on track with some of the challenges in this human condition from belonging, rising up strong, integrity, accountability, boundaries etc. She uses the acronym BRAVING as a checklist:

Boundaries — You respect my boundaries, and when you’re not clear about what’s okay and not okay, you ask. You’re willing to say no. 

Reliability — You do what you say you’ll do. This means staying aware of your competencies and limitations so you don’t over-promise and are able to deliver on commitments and balance competing priorities.

Accountability — You own your mistakes, apologize and make amends. 

Vault — You don’t share information or experiences that are not yours to share. I need to know that my confidences are kept and that you’re not sharing with me any information about other people that should be confidential. 

Integrity — You choose courage over comfort. You choose what is right over what is fun, fast or easy. And you choose to practice your values rather than simply professing them.

Non-judgment — I can ask for what I need, and you can ask for what you need. We can talk about how we feel without judgement. 

Generosity – you extend the most generous interpretation possible to the intentions, words and actions of others. Lead with the benefit of the doubt. 

The wilderness is when we are standing alone, when we go out on a limb, when we walk away from our ideological bunkers and beliefs etc. BRAVING is the tool to help us manage the wilderness. – Brené Brown 

I believe I already have a jumbled sense of all of the above noble attributes and qualities but I have never systematically put myself under the microscope and consciously looked at my behaviour with a checklist. I had never broken it down to seven elements that were observable and measurable. At first it felt daunting, almost unachievable. I had to admit that I liked the thrill of hearing some ‘secret’ or knowing something before others. I just had to get off my spiritual high-horse and admit that gossip is addictive and there are far more undercurrents in its murky waters than first meets the eye. 

The deep question here is:

“What do I get out of trading this gossip, both giving and receiving?” 

Alt text here What do I get out of trading this gossip, both giving and receiving? Image: Hivan Arvizu

It can’t just be a thrill from some juicy or salacious information. It must have an element of power or control embedded within it. My ego must perceive a gain of some sort: leverage (power or control to use at a later date), comparison validation (I feel better about my own flaws having exposed yours), revenge (that will bring him down a peg or two), karma pleasure (she’ll get what she deserves and I’m not involved, I’m just reporting), a bid for connection (maybe now they’ll see and appreciate me), manipulation (I’ll tell you something if you tell me something), affirming intimacy (I trust you with this because we are so close) … there are so many subtle variations within the currency of gossip. 

Gossip harms our relationships more than we realise. So many of us use it as a way to ‘hot wire’ a connection with a friend, but that intimacy isn’t real – it’s counterfeit trust. – Brené Brown

Early in the week I felt self-conscious, stumbling with words and retracting them. I must have looked and sounded strange to my friends when I would start saying something then completely back track. I wanted to be 100% sure that I was following the BRAVING guide. It wasn’t that I was about to gossip the whole time, but more I wanted to really be sure that my words were kind, useful and necessary. Often, they were not. I was just filling in the silence. The silence I so desperately crave.

When a friend tried to tell me something gossipy I said, “I don’t want to gossip so I’d rather you didn’t tell me.” This didn’t go down too well. They felt judged and shamed. And it didn’t feel comfortable for me. It did have a tinge of superiority which I really didn’t want to convey, and yet there it was. 

You will trust me less when I am using stories that are not mine as currency. – Brené Brown.

It was only when I adopted, and led with the element of integrity, things got easier. I simply began to explain to my friends from the outset of any new conversation that I was practising being good and true with my word and also trying not to gossip. I asked for their support in keeping me on track. In doing this they could witness and support my process and without me asking anything of them, they were implicitly made aware that gossip is a two-way street and their participation wasn’t welcome. I just lead by example and clear communication. It really worked. I had so many fruitful conversations about what we talk about, who we talk about and why we talk at all. It has been so liberating. 

Alt text here When I entered conversations with integrity and clear communication, my connections became more respectful. Image: Christin Hume

Trust is earned in the smallest of moments. It is earned not through heroic deeds, or even highly visible actions, but through paying attention, listening, and gestures of genuine care and connection. – Brené Brown

Of course, there are times when we need a confidant, when we need a trusted friend. When we need to unravel a confusion, a betrayal, a disappointment. We need to share in order to heal. This is where ‘contracting’ becomes so important. It’s about getting clear from the very start of the conversation. Spelling it out clearly and asking if it’s okay to share. It could go something like this …

“I’m in a lot of confusion about something. I’m hurt and upset and I need to unravel some of this. I don’t want to gossip but I really need a confidant right now. I promise to try and stay in integrity and I’d appreciate it if you could hold me accountable to that. If you are willing to hear me with a mutual promise of trust and sealed-vault confidentiality I’d be really grateful. And I understand if you can’t right now for whatever reason. I’d prefer to talk to my therapist or my pastor but they aren’t available. Are you willing to listen?”

This is a mature and ideal way of asking for help. Everyone is at choice. This builds authentic trust, loyal connection and safe intimacy. And it’s important here to recognise that it’s only in the practise and the repetition that we get really good at something. I’m making a promise to be kind and forgiving of myself when I do it less than perfectly. 

 The vault is not just about ‘you hold my confidences.’ It’s that, ‘in our relationship, I see that you acknowledge confidentiality. – Brené Brown.

I genuinely want to make a positive difference in the world and I truly believe this seven-letter acronym, BRAVING, is a useful tool in achieving a higher human consciousness. I am going to keep up this challenge and see where it takes me. I have an intuitive feeling that it will forge a sweeter, deeper connection with all the people with whom I engage; close family, dear friends, colleagues and even nameless strangers at the bank, the supermarket, the café etc. And more than this … it will keep my integrity ship afloat as it continues on its journey home.

~

How did this article make you feel? Do you feel inspired to take the challenge and like me, be out there, BRAVING, the wilderness? We’d love to hear from you in the comments below. 

Much love brave-hearts 

Paul and Team UPLIFT

More information on Brené Brown

 

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18 Responses to Am I as Good as My Word? 

  1. Beautifully articulated, thank you. It brings to mind another Brené Brown (Esther Pêrel?)) quote “Shame dies when stories are told in safe places”. May we become those safe places! Warmly, Sue.

  2. Being extra mindful with our word is a difficult yet worthy exercise.excellent article!
    I really appreciate Brene Brown..! And thank you for sharing!

  3. I enjoyed reading the article, thanks for giving ways to improve in this area of personality. I am a talkative person, not gossiping, but I talk a lot about myself, spreading valuable information to strangers. Now, I have the BRAVING guide to help me control being wordy.

    • Tonakko thank you for sharing your appreciation. We truly value what you have to say and all the silence in between. Much love Paul

  4. Everything in your article follows the principles of Al-Anon. This is a sister organization to AA, for the relatives and close friends of alcoholics. My lovely father was an alcoholic. I have been a grateful member of Al-Anon for 17 years.
    Integrity and confidentiality are the basis of being able to open up and share freely at our meetings.
    As we always say, ” what you say here, what you hear here, what you see here, stays here”.
    Thank you for reminding me again of those wonderful teachings.

    • Yes … it seems that these guiding principles find their way into so many great resources to help us remember our beautiful humanity … remind us who we truly are. Thank you for sharing your wonderful compassion with us … and especially for sharing your lovely father and his struggle. Much love Paul

  5. This is such a refreshing article to read and so timely with so much undistirbed time to practice.
    In Buddhism this practice is one of developing Bodhichitti and is a livetime Practice we all need to support one another to progress. Thank you 🙏🏽👌💞

    • You’re very welcome Grace. May our lifetime practices be softer and softer with the coming years ❤️

  6. “Times when you need a confidant.” I would never put someone in the position of keeping a particular discussion to themselves. Should you feel the need to share with one person you can share with all. It does not make it right to contract with someone beforehand.

    • Whatever works for you Roger. May there be peace and ease in all your communications … many blessings Paul

  7. I have been struggling with this issue for such a long time and I feel that this article was somehow written for me, as it is said, the messenger or lessons come when you are ready. I remember sending a message recently to someone professing my integrity and yet I have someone I know who gossips shamelessly in my presence and I have often wanted to say these words to her but somehow never seem able to. Thank you for writing this article and thanks to Berne for providing this tool to guide us to communicate in a more conscious and loving manner.

    • I am hoping that people can share this with their friends and family to at least make the first steps towards greater awareness. Much love to you Linda. Paul

    • Sharing my insights and areas of self enquiry and struggle usually shift something for me and the reader. So pleased we shifted together. Much love Paul

  8. Yes I feel ready to take up the challenge of Braving. I really enjoyed and was inspired by the way you shone the light in such detail on the wider concept of loving and conscious communication. Great article. 😊

    • May your wilderness always be short and sweet after the blast of truthful awareness. I pray for this for us all daily. Much love Paul x

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