Complaining. Blaming. Gossip. Those conversations are usually unproductive. The word “productive” comes from the ideas of “leading and moving forward”. In that sense, being productive is a good thing.
Unproductive conversations are everywhere – they aren’t wrong, but they don’t produce much value.
- Complaining could be productive if you are committed to following through to find a resolution. But if you are complaining just because you’re in a bad mood, you’re putting negativity on a loudspeaker.
- Blaming others for errors or failures might give you some momentary satisfaction. It might even get you out of trouble. But it still can’t be considered productive communication because it creates ill will and avoids responsibility. Neither of those outcomes will advance anything worthwhile.
- Gossip, revealing personal information or passing along rumors or negative opinions of others, is a popular pastime in the Age of Connectivity. But it’s not productive in the sense of advancing anything and it can cause serious damage, both to the speaker’s reputation and to other people.
So it is unfortunate that we are in the silly season of “politics” – original meaning: “civil government” – has become anything but civil. Five more months to go.
My thought is that our best protection from uncivil, unproductive conversations is not to participate in them. Any dialogue engaging those 3 types of conversation will likely lead to making something – or someone – wrong, or bad, or otherwise disagreeable.
Now I’m developing some skills in shifting toxic talk to other topics – such as the two conferences I’ve been to in the past month (both terrific!), the executive retreats I’m leading this summer (hey, I thought I was retired!), even the weather (at least we can agree it’s getting hot now).
I invite you to join me in staying out of the deep weeds of unproductive conversations.
End of sermon.