If you have a problem with someone, go to the source. If you have nothing else to talk about, make it a point to read up on current events or talk about your own life.
Gossiping is a way of keeping distance. If we are talking about someone else, we’re not sharing about ourselves. In many ways gossiping is a great way to stay safe while also feeling like we’re “in”. We can talk about someone else, laugh, joke, be liked and all the while never be vulnerable…what a great trick!
In particular I’m talking about negative gossip. Negative gossip is spreading hurtful news about someone, talking badly about someone behind his/her back, speaking with contempt about others, ridiculing or laughing at someone, and/or saying something behind someone’s back that you wouldn’t dare say to his/her face.
I believe that people often struggle with gossiping when they are not in a comfortable situation or they are so angry at a person that instead of going to that person to talk about what happened, they “vent” to others. For example, when I’m talking to someone I’m just getting to know or if I’m in a group of people who know each other better than I do, I struggle more to be in integrity in this area. Similarly, if I’m talking to someone who’s going off on a person, I may struggle to set limits because I don’t want the person to feel bad if I don’t participate in the gossiping or if I stopped the conversation.
The problem is when we gossip we hurt others and ourselves. We hurt ourselves because we teach people that we cannot be trusted. I remember being in a group of women who would talk about other people without a second thought it seemed. Inevitably, I would walk away wondering what they were going to say about me once I got out of earshot. It was a very uncomfortable feeling. At that moment I realized that if we talk about acquaintances, there’s no reason to think we won’t talk about our friends too.
Gossiping is an easy habit to get into and can be a hard one to break. It can be awkward trying to find something to talk about or not joining in when a group of your friends are all talking about someone. It can also be quite rewarding to not give in to this temptation. You will feel more in integrity, others will experience you as being in integrity and those who know you will trust that you have their back rather than worry you will talk behind their back.
Challenge: Pay attention to when and how you gossip. Come up with a plan to stop it. If someone begins to talk about someone else, change the subject, or tell them in a light-hearted way that you’re working on not gossiping so you’ve decided to talk about yourself incessantly. If you’re angry at someone, go to the source and tell them straight—don’t bad mouth them to anyone who will listen.