It seems that our blame and negative speech seem to say more about ourselves than others. Think about the following process of investigating what speaking disparagingly can tell you about yourself.

1. Ask yourself, What does talking about this person in this way do for my own self-image? For example, do you feel better about yourself in some way when you fault someone else? Ask, How does speaking of this person's behavior as faults serve me? Why do I really do it? Does it justify your own behavior? Do you feel more accepted by the people you're with? Does it make you feel important? In other words, you may find that by saying another has faults, you feel you're not alone in your own perceived faults, or it makes you feel better — I'm bad, but he's worse. Either way, our speech can be a way to avoid the deep belief of being less than.

2. Try seeing yourself in the other person, and honestly try to find examples in yourself when you have been like the person you are discussing. Change the statement from "Harry is undependable" to "How am I undependable?" Watch for situations in which you may not follow through. In other words, look at your own behavior. The idea is to keep an open awareness about your behavior without judgment or even trying to change it, although that may happen quite naturally once you become aware of your actions. What is your experience now? How do you feel about this other person? About yourself? Perhaps you feel less judgmental of her, or perhaps you notice some guilt or some other feelings arise.

3. Now bring yourself into the dead spot by exercising the prohibitory aspect of the precept [I take up the way of speaking of others with openness and possibility — Not discussing the faults of others]. Stop yourself from speaking disparagingly about Harry. Ask yourself if, right in this moment, I do not find fault with Harry, what's the worst thing that could happen? Stay open. If any feelings, emotions, or bodily sensations arise, label them and rest with them, breathing in and out. Allow yourself to enter into Just This. This particular question brings us to the core of our behavior and if we stick it out, we can find what fuels it. In other words, what we get of speaking ill of others. If you're in a group, make an attempt to stop yourself from talking about others by removing yourself from the group or biting your tongue. Stay open to your reactions as above.

4. Now consider, What would your relationship to this person be if you simply acknowledged her behavior without finding fault with it?

Diane Eshin Rizzetto in Waking Up to What You Do