Are you a Bad Mouther Too? – Lessons Learned by JH Mae – September 26, 2013

CFN – One morning in fourth grade, my classmates and I lined up on a snowy morning to start the school day. My father stood beside me in the cold and slush and gave me a lecture.

“Don’t talk about people behind their backs,” he said. “It’s not nice.”

I knew badmouthing my friends wasn’t nice but that didn’t stop me. I felt guilty for my behavior and resolved, at nine years old, to be a better person and stop the nasty habit.

To this day, I still have a hard time keeping that promise. And I’m sure I’m not the only adult who is a secret, occasional bad-mouther.

For three years, I worked in an office as a secretary. I did my fair share of bad-mouthing, because I came across many challenging people, people I thought were disrespectful, lazy or difficult. Which brings me to the first reason people bad-mouth each other – to let off steam.

Every day, we are annoyed by someone, and every day, those little moments of annoyance build and eat away at us, making us cranky and stressed. Think of a tea kettle, percolating as it heats up on the stove, until eventually, it releases a jet of steam.

Bad-mouthing is that jet of steam. A five-minute session of “can you believe what so-and-so just did!” releases building tension and helps you feel better.

But that steam is dangerous. It burns, and if you’ve ever had one, you know steam burns are the worst.

Trust me, you’ve been bad-mouthed. Maybe you’ve heard about it, and if you did, I’m sure you were incredulous: (“I can’t believe she said that about me!”) When you’re the bad-mouthed, you have the benefit of understanding why you did what you did and know the other person’s words are unjust.

If you’re the bad-mouther, you’re being unjust as well. Perhaps, a little bit of introspection is due before you open your mouth.

Another bit of parenting wisdom should be used here: put yourself in the other person’s shoes. Are you being fair? Does your victim really deserve your criticism? Why do you need to bad-mouth in the first place?

Here’s the answer (and the second reason): because you’re not happy with yourself. You feel low, so pointing out someone else’s shortcomings – and getting your friends to agree and laugh and belittle with you – puts you in a better light. (“Don’t look at what I did wrong – look at her!”)

Forming a bad-mouthing alliance with someone, at the expense of an unsuspecting victim, can also make you feel more accepted, part of team rather than a lone wolf, the critic and not the criticized.

There is rarely a good reason to bad-mouth others. It’s something teen girls do, not grownups, and no one looks good while doing it. Empathy, understanding and closed lips are far more admirable.

But it can be very difficult, as my nine-year-old self learned. After my father’s lecture, I went right back to my old ways.
shelley mae hazen

JH Mae is a feature journalist and short fiction writer based in rural northern New York.

JH Mae is a feature journalist and short fiction writer based in rural northern New York.

She worked for five years at a local newspaper, followed by three years as a secretary.

She recently left the office life to pursue a full-time writing career and now works in her pajamas.

To learn more about here you can visit her website by clicking.


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  1. I tried clicking on your website but my anti-virus software told me you were malicious. Is that just a coincidence?

  2. If people talk behind your back,
    It only means you are two steps ahead of them. **smile**

    @JH Mae I learned in life that if I trim myself to continuously suit others I will soon whittle myself away.

    Be who you are and say what you feel
    Because those who mind don’t matter
    And those who matter don’t mind.

    Good-luck with your writing career!!!!

  3. STELLABYSTARLIGHT I read what JH MAE had to say and I now understand you better. Don’t be unhappy with yourself, be positive with the knowledge that from where you are you can only improve. Make it a great day!

  4. @David………FYI I am very happy with myself and my accomplishments. As for your little comment about improvement, that applies to everyone including you.

    Since doing a little introspection and weighing the pros and cons, failures and achievements and realizing what’s important and what isn’t…….I never once looked back.

    You really make me wonder, what is it with you?

  5. Say what you mean and mean what you say!

  6. You are absolutely right STELLABYSTARLIGHT life is a learning curve for all and perfection is not part of the human equation. Not having regrets is a great position to be in and a positive place to be in my opinion.

    You asked what is was with me so I owe you an explanation. Meaningful dialogue does not incorporate insults, intimidation, sarcasm, well you get my drift. You unleash my ire when you venture into a debate and turn into a bully with an individual does not share your viewpoint. That is not a debating technique. I will admit openly that my barbs were designed to toy with you and give you a taste of the medicine that you have so freely doled out in the past. Fair to say you have figured this out STELLABYSTARLIGHT so if you are in agreement can we close this chapter and move on. I am suggesting a truce, you don’t have to be friendly towards me, or agree but I am extending an olive branch. Accept my apology for not having taken a more direct route in the first place.

  7. David, chapter closed.

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