Thursday, August 21, 2008


You’ve probably seen the movie Pay It Forward, based on a novel by Catherine Ryan Hyde, in which a young boy develops a plan to change the world. He describes his plan like this: “You see, I do something real good for three people. And then when they ask how they can pay it back, I say they have to Pay It Forward. To three more people. Each. So nine people get helped. Then those people have to do twenty-seven." Trevor’s plan is simple but effective. In a world where people are often indifferent and sometimes even hurtful, he wants to be an expanding force for good.

So do I. And one way I try to spread goodwill rather than hurt is by what I call ungossip. It’s just what it sounds like—the exact opposite of gossip. Instead of maliciously passing on words that wound and tear relationships apart, I share words that heal and build bridges. Here’s how it works. Every time I hear someone say something good about someone else, I pass it on to the person being spoken about, or at least to a family member. So if someone tells me what a nice young man so-and-so is, and I run into his mother in the grocery store, I ungossip. If a man tells me something complimentary about his wife, the next time I see her, I ungossip. If a fellow-student tells me that he absolutely loved Professor XYZ’s class, during my next conference with the professor, I ungossip. Everybody benefits. The people who have been complimented feel the joy of being appreciated, they feel a special connection to the person who has complimented them and usually express it the next time they meet, and I feel pleasure in being the one to promote harmony rather than discord.

It’s not hard to do. It’s not time consuming. It’s nothing obsessive. It is just a simple way to make the world a better place

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