5. Since someone is going to screw something up sooner or later, you might as well just assume that things are a mess. Even if they seem okay right now, all you need to do is wait around for a while. To be on the safe side, you can bring it up in casual conversations now and then. You need only pick a couple of things that could go wrong since they likely will; and if not, something equally bad will happen. As sincerely as you can, say something like this, “Have you thought about the consequences of this or that happening? Don’t you think we better think this through more carefully and not be so quick to jump into things we don’t thoroughly understand? We have done that before and it looks like we would learn. I would hate to see us end up with egg on our faces again.” (If asked, you can mention most anything that didn’t work out at anytime in the past.) Now, when something down-the-road does not work out as expected, and something will not work out, you then only need to say in your most concerned voice, “I was worried that this might happen. I will certainly pitch in and help you with your problem but I’m sure not optimistic. It’s too bad things are such a mess around here.”
6. Since most people are out for themselves, never take anyone on an “as is” basis. Just assume that what they are saying to you and what they are really thinking are not the same. It will help support your insight into human nature to occasionally ask people if they can completely trust so-and-so. You will find some who don’t and that proves your point. Now all you need to do is listen carefully for the inconsistencies and contradictions in what someone you particularly dislike says to you and to other people. The fact that that person is not to be trusted will quickly become obvious. You knew it all along. You best schedule a confidential meeting with the person you don’t like to offer a friendly head’s up. “Although I’m usually pretty comfortable with you, I think you should know that there are some people who are not sure they can trust you. I tell them that they should give you a chance but…. Well, I just thought you would want to know what people are saying about you. Of course, I can’t say who feels that way since I told them I would keep it confidential. I don’t want them to have a trust problem with me too. If you want, I will keep you posted about what people are saying about you.”
7. You need to be stingy with your praise for anyone, especially for people you don’t like. At the same time, as much fun as it is to get into blaming and accusing, you need to be careful about that too. Remember that people come and go and you never know which way the winds are going to blow. It is an, “If you can’t think of something nice to say, don’t say anything,” kind of thing. Of course if you can think of something nice to say, keep your mouth shut anyway. If the person asks, say, “I don’t have a problem with you;” and if someone else asks, say, “He (or she) and I have an adequate relationship.” Be sure to use the same approach with everyone, since you never know how things are going to go.
8. A similar approach also helps when someone brings up a problem with you. You can say, “I have avoided being critical of you and have not bought into the talk. I thought our relationship was fairly good. That is why this surprises me. I hope our relationship is important enough to you that this does not get in the way. I would hate for us to get into the kind of thing you have with some other people. That would be a real shame.” If asked for clarification, say, “I don’t think it is appropriate for me to get into that with you. I value our relationship and don’t want it to change over a little thing like this.” Now just keep your mouth shut. If all goes well, the person will not get back to whatever the problem was.