I like to gossip. Not everybody does. I have some friends who find the good in everyone and wouldn’t dream of saying anything negative about anybody. Not me.
I find gossiping cathartic; almost liberating. It’s a great reality check when I’m having trouble making sense of people’s crazy choices. Because I compare myself – would I have said that, done that, worn that? Most times, the answer is no (especially worn that!) but every now and then I realize that I did or that I could and it serves as a learning experience.
But I’m a smart gossiper. I only gossip in a trusted relationship. Never cavalierly in mixed company where my thoughts could be twisted, repeated or both. And NEVER about business colleagues. I have never said one bad thing about my competition to a client. And you shouldn’t either. It doesn’t raise you up. It can only serve to bring you down.
Over the years, I have found myself on both sides of the business gossip issue.
No good comes from either side. When I was an emergency room doctor, I treated many patients who had been under the care of their primary physician and found themselves with a worsening condition requiring emergency intervention.
They would tell me the history of the problem in great detail reporting how it started and what treatment their doctor prescribed. And often times end with “That was wrong, wasn’t it? My doctor shouldn’t have done that?” I could tell by the sound of their voice that they were just looking for validation that they made the right choice to come to the emergency room.
My answer was always the same. “I wasn’t there when this problem started and there are many ways to solve it, so I can’t say if what your doctor did was right or wrong. But today, we’re going to do this…” Meanwhile, in my head I was screaming He did what? Are you kidding me? Who would treat this with THAT?
I also never said one bad thing about any doctor to the nurses or support staff in the ER. Some doctors in the field had a better reputation than others, but that was not for me to decide. If you didn’t have a good reputation, that’s because you made that mess, not me.
When I opened my spa business, I found myself on the other side of the gossip issue.
The medical aesthetic industry is competitive and not always congenial. In my immediate location there are six of us who offer similar procedures.
I always tried to take my cue from the hairdressers. There’s a hairdresser on every block in America and no one goes out of business. Why? Because there’s more than enough hair to go around! I always felt there were more than enough wrinkles to go around as well.
One day, one of my patients told me that she had been to a monthly women’s group and a new spa owner had been the featured speaker. She was there trying to recruit women as customers to get her business off the ground. I would have done the same.
When my patient mentioned that she came to me for her services, this spa owner said in front of 25 participants “Oh, she waters down her Botox.” I was flabbergasted. That’s a lie that was presented to a group of women with the hope that it would spread and discredit me. It didn’t.
That incident happened ten years ago. We both have successful medical aesthetic businesses within five miles of each other. Over the years, I have been in consultation with many women who had initially been to the other provider and not been satisfied. They have had plenty to say.
And my response has always been the same. “I’m so sorry that happened to you. Why don’t we try this treatment instead…” I have never said one bad word about her and I never will. But I also will never forget.
This provider now offers a service that is sought after by many women. I don’t offer that service and find myself in a position to recommend someone who does. I have never, nor will I ever recommend her. Everybody now loses. Women who want this procedure are forced to spend time researching providers in the area and this provider, who could have had a pipeline of referrals, loses out on the money.
Thumper’s mother was right. “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say nothin’ at all.” Unless of course you’re with you best friend and a bottle of wine.