Do you know anyone for whom you can say that you have never known them to put anyone down? Occasionally I encounter these fine people and can’t help but admire them. Unfortunately I can’t say that negative comments never pass my lips but I am endeavouring to get right down to zero on this. I have never been one for putting people down but I am sure I have offended people with what were intended to be good-humoured little jabs at them and I don’t feel I (or anyone) will be losing anything important if I cut that out completely.
I would say that in the vast majority of cases, if someone is putting another person down then they are more than likely insecure enough about something to feel the need to artificially raise themselves up by pushing others down. This is fairly easy to say as most people are insecure about something but the key here is that they are insecure enough about it that it actively affects their behaviour. It could also be the social situation at hand, for example if someone is used to being looked up to but now finds himself mingling with a group of surgeons, millionaires or PhDs then this might trigger a feeling of inferiority which makes that person want to reassert their position somehow.
I have no evidence to support my claim that everyone who puts down others is suffering from some kind of insecurity but certainly if you are feeling secure then I think you are far more likely to help others, be generous, complimentary and open. After all, if you are not fixating on some perceived lack in yourself then you have more time to consider others. It’s also interesting how you can meet people who seem to be happy and successful in all they do but there’s just one hangup that they have that, if triggered, could start them emphasising their strengths and other’s weaknesses, all to mask their one perceived deficiency.
When travelling you’ll often meet new people and there’s often the opportunity to form a group for a few days; in the last week I’ve been doing that and in two out of three times there was one person in the group who felt the need to put others down for one thing or another. For example, in one case this person was bilingual and had a knack for picking up other languages. Some of the group were students from abroad who were attending a language school. At first people respect him for his ability with languages, but when he keeps making quips about their pronunciation, and laughs too often and for too long the mood sours. What is his problem? Nobody knows, but what is certain is that no one benefits from his behaviour and he turns respect into slight animosity.
Certainly there are far more serious social issues to address in the world but I’d say that this is one of the easiest ones to eradicate because it’s simply a case of not making negative comments about others, and saying something else instead. Nothing is lost, and everyone will probably have a nicer time for it.
I’ll add that the same should apply when you are talking about people who aren’t present; just don’t do it! Chances are they will one day hear about it, and even if they don’t, the signal you’re sending people is that you’re the kind of person who will speak negatively about others behind their back. So, perhaps they might reasonably expect that when they’re not around you might be bad-mouthing them. Again, it seems like we have nothing to lose and much to gain by discarding those negative comments, and simply saying something else.