Tag Archive for: Articles by David Irvine

Dealing With Gossip – The Authentic Way

We’ve all been there. Criticizing someone who isn’t in the room. Badmouthing a colleague. Condemning our boss.
It’s called gossiping and means we disrespect a person in their absence.

What I’ve learned about gossip:

  1. It’s a defense against having the courage to be direct. It’s easier to deal with our anger towards someone by talking poorly about them when they aren’t present.
  2. It’s addictive. You can get a high from self-righteousness, especially when you get someone to listen to you.
  3. It erodes trust. Suppose we criticize our supervisor in a way we wouldn’t dare if they were present. What happens if we have a falling out and you see me speaking with that same supervisor?
  4. It eats away at your integrity. Being one way with one person and another way with another exposes dishonesty and insecurity and leads to disrespect.

Authenticity, when it comes to gossip, requires three decisions:

a) Decide you will be loyal in people’s absence. It will earn you self-respect, respect of your comrades, and will foster trust. If you want to retain those who are present, be loyal to those who are absent.

b) Decide to be direct with the person you are frustrated with or let it go because it’s not the right thing at the moment to bring it up directly with them.

c) Decide that self-respect that comes from integrity is more worthwhile than the superficial approval from preying on another person’s weaknesses.

When a person starts gossiping to you:

i) Empathize with their feelings, but tell them you don’t participate in gossip.

ii) Bring all the parties together (if you have a role to do so) to deal with the issue directly.

iii) Talk about positive things about the person in their absence.

iv) Apologize when you forget all this and get sucked back into the comfort and ease of gossip rather than the courage of your convictions.

v) Remember that all these principles and practices apply to personal and family relationships as much as they apply to relationships in the workplace.

Is it ever okay to lie at work?

What upsets me is not that you lied to me, but that I can no longer believe in you. – Friedrich Nietzsche

No. It is never okay to lie at work.

But you have to understand that, while telling the truth is vital to establishing trust, truth-telling has to be tempered with skill, tact, and good judgment. Truth without respect is not truth at all. It’s brutality. The kind of truth when your four-year old says you look fat in a bathing suit lacks maturity and sensitivity. You expect that from a four-year old, but not a forty-year old.

Sometimes we need to withhold information or temper the truth with discretion because we deem it best for the greater good or for the good of the person on the receiving end.

In “The Speed of Trust,” Stephen Covey tells a story about his father in a clothing store in Canada. As he was considering the cost of purchasing a fairly expensive coat, he mentioned that he would have to add to the duty tax that would be imposed when he returned to the U.S:

“Don’t worry about the duty,” the store manager said. “Just wear it! Then you won’t have to pay the tax.”

“But I have to declare the things I’ve bought and am bringing into the country,” my father explained.

“Don’t declare it; just wear it,” the manager said once again. “Don’t worry about the tax.”

My father was silent for a moment, and then said, “Look, frankly I’m not as worried about having to pay the tax as I am about that new salesperson you’re training. He’s learning from you. What is he going to think when you sign his commission? What kind of trust is he going to have in you in guiding his career?”

So… if you want to build trust, good will, and respect in the workplace, it’s never okay to lie.

What Are You Doing For Humanity?

At the end of WWII, the United Polish Relief Fund appealed to the Canadian government to deliver penicillin to Poland. In October and November of 1945, the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) managed to deliver five tons of penicillin to Poland, the only humanitarian flights the RCAF would be able to make into the Soviet Bloc until after the Cold War.

On one of these humanitarian missions, the Fortress 9202 crashed into Eggeberg Hill, near Halle, Germany, killing all five RCAF members on board. My mother’s first husband, and father of my dear sister, Kate, was one of the pilots on that fateful flight. They sacrificed their lives for their country. They died for humanity. Watch a short video recounting their story. https://lnkd.in/gibYwgvv (Flt.-Lt. Donald Forest Caldwell, Mountain View,AB; Flt.-Lt. Edward Pattern Harling, Calgary, AB; Squadron Leader Alfred Ernest Webster, Yorkton, SK; Flt.-Lt. Norbert Davis Roche, Montreal, QC; Sergeant Edwin Erwin Phillips, Montreal, QC)

Martin Luther King Jr. once said that an individual has not started living until they can “rise above the narrow confines of their individualistic concerns to the broader concerns of all humanity.” Rising above our self-serving desires and problems and looking toward a contribution to the community isn’t just good for the community; it’s good for your own well-being and mental health.

As we observe Remembrance Day in Canada, may the memory and honoring of our veterans serve as an inspiration to rise above the “narrow confines of our individual concerns” and to lift our eyes to the horizon of humanity. Let the death of these five men, along with all who have served and sacrificed, serve as an inspiration as they placed the call of humanity above personal danger. To expand on the words of Martin Luther King, Jr., “Let’s make a career of humanity … and you will make a greater person of yourself, a greater nation of your country and a finer world to live in.” The ultimate measure of a person is not where they stand in moments of comfort and convenience, but where they stand in times of challenge and controversy.

We remember, and we will never forget. But let’s not just be touched on this Remembrance Day. Let’s be inspired to act differently. And then let’s look around, roll up our sleeves, and get to work making this world a better place.

Recognizing A Sacred Space

It’s easy to go through the motions of life, attending to daily responsibilities, checking off our to-do lists, distracted by a wondering mind. And then something simple, yet profound, knocks us off our feet and brings us into the present moment – what Richard Rohr calls a sacred space. It might be when we have an extreme fright, when someone close is diagnosed with a terminal illness, or when we lose someone close to us. It’s like we get jolted into realizing just how temporary and precious life truly is and how little we actually control.

This sacred space can last for hours or for days, as it did when my father died. I felt disconnected from life and couldn’t understand how people could be going along doing their routine activities, while I was in a whole different matrix of living. I didn’t feel that I belonged in this world for weeks.

I found myself in this sacred space yesterday. I was walking my dog when he ran ahead of me and fell through the ice on the creek. It’s a desperate feeling, seeing your dog struggling for his life. Thankfully, while he went in over his head, he didn’t get swept under the ice by the current and I could reach him in water that was only up to my knees.

There is something simple yet profound about saving an animal, a loved one that is so close to you. It put me in a different reality all day yesterday. It helped me see the world more s-l-o-w-l-y. It opened my heart. Saving another saves your own life just a little.

I hope, today, I can hang on to this sacred space by being present to the experience of being alive. I hope, today, I can appreciate the preciousness of life. I hope today, I won’t forget about what matters.

Dealing with Disruption and Disorder – The Authentic Way

Disruption and disorder have always been a part of the human condition. This reality is often seen at a global level, as in the brutality of terrorism and war, and sometimes more personally, as in the sudden arrival of an illness, an injury, or a personal betrayal. Our work is to embrace times of great difficulty honestly and courageously through the lens of authenticity, allowing the pain to break us open so a stronger, wiser, and kinder self can emerge.

When faced with a global disruption or a personal tragedy, will you become a better person from the disturbance, or will you distract yourself and miss the growth opportunity? Will you use this time to develop your authenticity and connect more deeply with yourself and the world around you, or will you look for diversions to drown out your pain?

Specifically, how can disorder in the world or in our lives make us better people? Here are three simple strategies to resist the tendency to distract during times of disruption and instead take the road less traveled to deepen our authenticity.

Disconnect to connect. Periods of disruption lead to the allure of escapism, particularly the kind that technology can offer to alleviate emotional pain. Programs on our devices are designed to give us relief by drowning out grief. Does the escape these devices offer actually lead to greater well-being? We’d be hard pressed to claim these devices will pilot us into increased mental health.

Connect with your emotions. Binge watching shocking news is different than connecting with your own experience. Take time to ask yourself a few questions:

  • How are these atrocities affecting me? What is my own inner experience?
  • How do I respond to the endless images reminding us of the wars in the world?
  • How do I process the scenes of horror, the carnage in Israel, the Gaza, Ukraine?
  • How do I process the grief?

Last evening, I sat with a friend, who was putting her parents, who stayed with her in Canada over the summer, on a plane back to Israel. They are in their seventies and want to get home to do what they can. Sitting with this woman for just a few moments yesterday made the war more real to me. Connect to yourself. Connect to others. Let life touch you. Don’t let it consume you, but let it touch you, even briefly.

Clarify your values. In search of authenticity, I am inspired by the words of Brad Stulberg in his book, Master of Change, about how to navigate unavoidable upheaval; that a more sustainable response to change can be found in your core values:

When you feel the ground shifting underneath you, when you don’t know your next move, you can ask yourself, how might I move in the direction of my core values? … The portability of core values means that you can practice them in nearly all circumstances. Thus, they become a source of stability throughout change, forging the rugged boundaries in which your fluid sense of self can flow and evolve. Nothing can take your values away from you. They provide a rudder to steer you into the unknown.

There are times in our lives when we are on narrow roads. At those times, we are fools if we try to maintain our usual speed. Disruption is a time to s-l-o-w d-o-w-n when the world seems to be speeding up. Stop and get your bearings. Reset your compass. Clarify your values and renew your commitment to take the small actions that can make a big difference within your sphere of influence.

Value-driven responses are not as immediately enticing as a manic digital escape. These escapes, Cal Newport reminds us: inevitably reveal themselves to be transient and the emotions they’re obscuring eventually return. If you can resist the allure of the easy digital palliative and instead take on the heavier burden of meaningful action, a more lasting inner peace can be achieved.

ACCOUNTABILITY: It’s Not About Criticism. It’s About Clarity

In my role of board chair in a non-profit organization I’ve felt some strain the past few weeks. I’ve imagined that the executive director is unhappy with the board and am wondering whether we’re best serving this organization. An incredible board member who has been the glue holding the organization together since it’s inception is stepping down now that her tenure is up. I’ve been questioning if I’m able to fill her shoes. It’s stressful when you are unsure if you are meeting the expectations of the people who depend on you.

What I’m going to do this week is meet with the executive director and ask for help. We are going to discuss and negotiate what we expect from each other and how to best support each other. We will clarify how we define success in this organization, our agreements with each other, how to measure expected results, and what to do if either of us inadvertently gets off track. In short, we’re going to reset the compass of our relationship.

What we’re going to do is be accountable to each other. It’s not about blame or accusations or fault-finding or finger-pointing. It’s about ownership and clear agreements.

Accountability lies at the foundation of every good relationship. It’s meant to foster trust, decrease stress, build fulfilling connections, and get a grip on results that matter.