I’m Dillan, and I’m a recovering shit-talker.
When I failed college in 2017, I got a job at the Cheesecake Factory. There I started making money, building strong habits, and getting my life together.
The first change to make? I wanted to be a kinder person.
That’s great. But how does one begin practicing that? Well, it wasn’t something I started doing more of; it was something I put an end to…
In other words, saying something about someone who isn’t in the room—something that would make me uncomfortable if he/she heard it come out of my mouth. In other words: shit-talking.
It’s one of the easiest ways to bond with people: over mutual hatred or frustration of other people like bosses or fellow coworkers. It’s fun. When we know they’ll never hear what we have to say, we feel brave enough to say whatever we want. This person is an idiot. That person is an asshole.
I bring up the Cheesecake Factory because that’s where I started my experiment. I swore to never say anything about anyone I wouldn’t say to their face. And, when I felt the urge to talk shit, I had to instead share something I respected about that person.
This was hard. At times, it felt impossible. Why would I force myself to say something wholesome about someone who brought me nothing but headache or anguish?
Well, it only took a few weeks for me to notice a shift in my thinking. In fact, I was beginning to see the world differently.
I know that sounds a bit fantastical, but it genuinely felt as though I was reprogramming my brain. I was in a better mood at work. Annoying things didn’t make me as mad for as long as they used to. I liked people more.
The biggest thing? I saw just how frequently everyone around me gossiped about others. It’s like trying to stop using the word “like” as a filler word, then recognizing how often other people say it.
So that’s where it all started.
Cut to: today. I have absolutely zero interest in engaging in gossip or any conversation where we’re just badmouthing someone who’s not in the room.
I was at a party a few months ago and a raging shit-talk fest erupted. I left the room.
When my friends start criticizing somebody, I’ll go as far as to say something like: “Hey, thank you so much for trusting me and being open and vulnerable. But if we’re going to talk about someone else in this way, let’s set an intention. Let’s make sure we leave this conversation with a change or an action to take so we’re not just gossiping.”
You might be reading all this and thinking, Dillan…isn’t this all a bit overdramatic?
Well, I did theatre in college. So drama is in my blood.
Jokes aside, here’s why I think this is important.
I think gossiping is a slippery and cowardly slope to other deeper and darker habits. Comparison. Resentment. Insecurity.
That last one is massive. I’ve never known someone who is hugely secure, confident, and fulfilled by their life…who talks shit about other people. Gossip almost always comes from a place of insecurity.
Alex Hormozi said something in a 12-second video a few months ago that really stuck with me:
“People who are ahead of you in life are not talking shit about you. They’re not even thinking about you.”
The healthiest, most successful people I hang out with spend zero time gossiping. Instead, they congratulate people behind their backs. They highlight areas of admiration and respect, and any judgment spoken comes from them pointing out their own flaws.
No one who’s crushing it in life is leaving a mean comment online.
So I’ll leave you with two questions to ponder:
- How much time do you spend talking about people who aren’t in the room?
- How much of what you say about those people would you be comfortable with if they heard you say it?
Praise people behind their backs. Criticize people to their faces.