Dear Goodwill Gail,
As a new ALA member, I love the American Legion Auxiliary and feel our unit is working to make a difference in our local community. Overall, my experience has been very positive. But, I feel we have one “small” problem – gossip runs rampant in the unit and I feel this is inappropriate. That said, I do listen and sometimes partake in the gossip.
Am I Part of the Problem?
Dear Am I Part of the Problem,
First, it’s great to hear that your overall experience as an ALA member has been positive and that you feel our mission of serving veterans, the military, and their families is valuable! Second, kudos to you on being self-aware regarding your part in your unit’s gossip problem.
I’m not proud of this, but I’d be lying if I said I’ve never gossiped. Why do we do it? Some reasons people gossip: it makes you feel better about yourself; some feel more powerful by having information that others do not; and, for malicious reasons, to tear down another person’s character. Knowing the reasons doesn’t make it OK, but it does help you to understand where you and/or the people gossiping are coming from. Either way, you can think of gossiping as stealing – if it’s false, you’re stealing another person’s good character; if it’s true, you’re stealing someone’s right to privacy.
With that in mind, how do you become the change you wish to see in your unit? Here are some tips:
- In the words of the great Deputy Barney Fife of the famed The Andy Griffith Show, you’ve got to “Nip it in the bud!” Try to track the latest gossip to its source, and ask each person along the way to not repeat what they’ve heard.
- Don’t be an audience to gossip and rumors. Instead, politely excuse yourself from the conversation. If you disengage from conversations that veer toward gossip, people will get the message and stop gossiping around you.
- Before you speak, stop and T.H.I.N.K. (T — is it true? H — is it helpful? I — is it inspiring? N — is it necessary? K — is it kind?). If the answer to any of those questions is no, then see the previous bullet point.
Share these tips with your fellow ALA members, and remind them that gossiping makes it harder to serve our mission by pitting members against each other. Maybe everyone in your unit can make a decided effort to be kinder to each other in the spirit of goodwill.
In the Spirit of Service Not Self,
Need some advice on how to approach conflict within the American Legion Auxiliary? Send your questions to pr@ALAforVeterans.org with the subject line “Goodwill Gail.” We’ll create a pen name for you so that you remain anonymous. Talk soon!
This article was first published in the November 2018 Auxiliary magazine.