The True Nature of Professional Badmouthing: It's Not About You

Confidence is often a thin Line Between Arrogance and Self-Esteem. Confidence, often misunderstood as arrogance, can be perceived differently by individuals with low self-esteem. Those who crave control tend to resort to badmouthing others in order to boost their own sense of self-worth. This behavior can be observed in various domains, including political debates, religious discussions, and yes, even handwriting analysis. But what exactly is "professional badmouthing"? During my college years, it was described as "unjustified, negative, and derogatory remarks made by individuals within the same profession, which paradoxically leads others (both direct listeners and those indirectly exposed) to question the offender's competence and credibility."


Social Dynamics of Professional Bad-Mouthing. There appears to be a strategic social element underlying the act of badmouthing. Anyone who has encountered a bad-mouther within their own professional field can attest to the uncomfortable atmosphere it creates. Whether it's personal or professional, if someone speaks ill of others to you, chances are they are doing the same about you to others.


Who are these Bad-Mouthers? While it is true that some individuals in prestigious careers such as doctors, lawyers, architects, pilots, etc., may exhibit traits of clinical narcissism, there are others who engage in badmouthing to establish a sense of power. They often pursue careers that allow them to be or appear to be in control, such as police officers, firefighters, military officers, investigators, scientists, and more. Bad-Mouthers always have an underlying agenda. Badmouthing provides them with a false sense of control. Their goal is to manipulate or at least influence the outcome of a situation. The bad-mouther might be vying for your position, the next promotion, or even your spouse. Either way, their intention is to cause you pain, hardship, or inconvenience. They often feel intimidated by you, which triggers a manipulative, intimidating, and passive-aggressive campaign against you. The ultimate objective of the bad-mouther is to remove you from their path. Period.


Why do Bad-Mouthers Exist? Numerous studies have attempted to unravel the purpose and existence of badmouthing. This behavior is often referred to as "Machiavellian," as it transcends professional boundaries and only succeeds when it affects the personal domain.


There are three primary reasons why bad-mouthers exist:

  1. It serves as a gateway to social power: Those who engage in badmouthing acquire a reputation for being ruthless, capable of betraying their own family or friends. The fear they instill in others empowers them.
  2. Bad-mouthers exude confidence, a vital attribute for success: Confidence can be genuine, but some individuals with low self-worth and deep-seated fears of rejection fake it to conceal their insecurities. Their twisted belief system leads them to believe that by belittling others, they can elevate themselves. Diminishing others often becomes an overt display of confidence, whether genuine or not.
  3. Bad-mouthers often find themselves in leadership positions, which further bolsters their power.


Personal Experience: A Tale of Professional Badmouthing

Throughout my professional journey, I encountered a handwriting expert who badmouthed me relentlessly for over two decades. Strangely enough, I had never exchanged a single email, conversation, text, or even met her in person. We didn't share any common friends or acquaintances (I thoroughly checked and even searched social media).

Yet, for reasons unbeknownst to me, I seemed to intimidate her greatly. At every opportunity, she spoke ill of me. I naively believed that her badmouthing would cease or lose its impact once she found someone else to target. However, I was proven wrong time and time again. In the letter provided below, you will learn more about this distressing experience. After enduring this torment intermittently for over two decades, I finally confronted her.


This is what I emailed her on Facebook Messenger:

"Dear ______________, I have not 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 yet 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 happy to discuss it with you. However, if you have a problem with me personally, that's not about me. Instead, it's 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 badmouth me as I always appreciate new clients."


Because Facebook shows if someone reads your email, I know she read mine.

In case you are wondering… I never received a reply. Curiously, it appears that her badmouthing abruptly ceased after I confronted her in 2013.


It is important to remember that badmouthing is a reflection of the bad-mouther, not of the person being talked about. In many ways, bad-mouthers resemble the bullies we encountered during our school days. As someone who experienced severe bullying as a child, I can attest to the futility of the common advice: "Just ignore them, and they will stop." Unfortunately, that approach rarely yielded the desired outcome.


Originally posted on Wordpress on 08-09-2016