Confidence is often considered “arrogance” by those with low self-esteem. You know the ones – those who have to feel like that are the only ones “in control” – the ones who have to bad-mouth others in order to boost themselves. Many times these very people go into careers where they can be – or at least appear to be – in power. These career include police, fire fighting, military, investigators, scientists, doctors, lawyers, etc. – and even forensic handwriting analysis!
Yes – even in my two careers of forensic handwriting analysis and forensic mental health – “bad-mouths” also walk among us. Just watch an hour of political or religious debates and you will soon realize that no profession is immune or excluded.
What exactly is “professional bad-mouthing”?
Well in college it was defined for us as “unwarranted, negative, and denigratory comments made others in your profession. It is a paradoxical reality that causes others (direct listeners or those otherwise exposed to such badmouthing) to question your established competency and credibility”.
Social Elements of Professional Bad-Mouthing
There seems to be a strategically social element or foundation of the act or, perhaps for some, the practice of “bad-mouthing“. If you have ever been around a professional who badmouths another professional in the same field then you know firsthand how uncomfortable the environment around you suddenly becomes.
Of course, whether personally or professionally, if someone talks bad about others TO you then you can place a safe bet that he talks bad to others ABOUT you.
Who are the Bad-Mouths?
While many in seemingly prestigious and / or powerful careers (ie: doctors, lawyers, architects, pilots, etc.) may be “clinically narcissistic”, there are others who do this to self-empower. This gives the bad-mouth a sense of control – controlling or at least hoping to have some influence on the outcome of something. Bad-Mouths always have agenda that can range from personal or professional. The bad-mouth may be after your position or the next promotion… or after your spouse. Either way, their intention is to cause you some type of pain, struggle, or inconvenience. They often feel intimated by you and this triggers a manipulative, intimidating, and often passive-aggressive scheme against you. The bad-mouth wants you out of his way. Period.
Why do Bad-Mouths even exist?
There have been studies and research projects aimed to answer many questions about the purpose and / or existence over bad-mouthing. This behavior is called “Machiavellian” because the act of bad-mouthing is not successful unless it is effective and it crosses over from professional to private domains.
It is believed that the top three reasons bad-mouths exist are:
1. It is a segway into social power: the person bad-mouthing another acquires a cut-throat reputation as someone who would arrest their own mother for speeding or would throw their own husband under the bus. The fact that this creates fear in others actually empowers the bad-mouth.
2. Bad-mouths ooze confidence which is a basic requirement for success: confidence can be obvious or those who have fake confidence (the bluffers) can use it to hide their low self-worth and self-conscious fears of rejection. Their strategy? Their twisted sense of self causes them to believe that, by putting others down, they can boost themselves up – putting others down often directly connects to conspicuous displays of confidence whether or not the confidence is real or bluffed.
3. Bad-mouths are often in leadership roles: this just serves to increase their power.
In my own professional experience, I had another handwriting analyst talk bad about me for over 20 years. I had never exchanged an email with her, spoken to her, texted with her nor had I ever met her… in fact, we lived in different states, and did not share any common friends or acquaintances. Yet, for some reason, I must have really intimidated her because, at every opportunity, she spoke ill of me. I found out about it because.. well, you will read it in the letter I sent her below.
I kept thinking that her bad-mouthing would stop – would wear off when she found someone else to talk about. I was wrong. After dealing with this off and on for over 20 years, I finally decided to confront her.
This is what I emailed her on Facebook’s Messenger:
“Dear ______________, I have never said anything before because I figured that you would stop sabotaging your own success and reputation by trying to sabotage mine. Admittedly, until someone reminded me, I never gave it a second thought. Today I was reminded again but this time I decided to write you for two main reasons: (1) to say THANK YOU for sending so many clients my way over the past 20 years. Clearly you cast doubt on your own character by trying to tarnish mine and this has chased many of your “potential clients” right onto my “paid client” list and (2) to say that YOUR opinion of me is none of my business and only serves as a reflection of yourself. Now, with that being said, if you have a problem with me professionally, I would be be happy to discuss it with you. However, if you have a problem with me personally, that is not about me – that is 100% about you. Feel free to email me at __________________, call / text me at _________________ write me a letter at ______________, or even fax me at _________________. Otherwise, feel free to continue to bad-mouth me because I always appreciate new clients.”
Because Facebook shows you who reads your email, I know she read mine. In case you are wondering… I never received a reply. However, that was in 2013 and her bad-mouthing seems to have stopped just after that. That just proves that the badmouthing is about the “speaker” – the one doing the badmouthing – and is never about YOU.
Bad-mouths are a lot like the bullies from elementary or high school. I was a severely bullied kid and my parents told me to “ignore them and they will stop”. That didn’t work. So, while it took over 20 years, I finally practiced the advice I have told my clients since 1987 and that is…
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