Most of us, at some point in our lives, have been involved in gossip. Maybe you just listened in when a colleague had a juicy personal tidbit about someone else in the office. Maybe you passed along to someone else a piece of gossip you heard. Or maybe you were the one being gossiped about.
In any case, gossip is pretty toxic stuff. What can sometimes seem like harmless chitchat can actually be malicious conversation that spreads like wildfire and causes a lot of hurt in its path. When we gossip, we’re harming someone else for our own temporary enjoyment.
While it’s human nature to talk about each other, it’s a fine line between talk and gossip. If you’re ready to say goodbye to gossip, keep reading.
WHEN SOMEONE GOSSIPS TO YOU
We’ve all known a gossiper. It may be a friend, colleague or classmate. Maybe they have a knack for acquiring information they shouldn’t know or they just have a habit of bad-mouthing other people. Typically, chronic gossipers are often people with low self-esteem who build themselves up by bringing others down. Some people use gossip as a social currency, trading tips for some perceived popularity.
Regardless of what makes them gossip, you can help put a stop to it in one of three ways:
- Change the subject. When a gossip starts talking trash about someone, direct the conversation elsewhere. Start talking about a positive aspect of the person they’re gossiping about or pick a new topic entirely. You might even try complimenting the gossiper—for someone with their own insecurities, it may help them to refocus on a more positive subject.
- Confront them. If changing the subject doesn’t work, or you’re fed up with a repeat offender, speak up. Tell them calmly that you prefer not to talk about people who are not present or let them know that the conversation feels like gossip and you’d prefer to talk about something else.
- Leave. When all else fails, sometimes it’s best to just walk away from gossip. Don’t participate in the conversation and you won’t become part of the problem.
WHEN YOU’RE THE GOSSIP
Chances are, not many people can make the claim that they’ve never spread a piece of gossip. We’ve all been tempted with juicy info that we just can’t help but share, or frustrated to the point that we complain about a friend or co-worker behind their back.
If you’re trying to break your gossip habit, think about the risk. If you can’t keep a secret, don’t expect anyone to trust you. And don’t be surprised if you get a bad reputation for bad mouthing others. Gossip has a way of making it to person the gossip is about. Do you really want that gossip traced back to you, whether in a social or professional setting?
Before you gossip, stop and think about the person beyond the gossip. Who are you hurting with your gossip? And what do you have to gain from gossiping? Chances are, the risk is not worth the reward.
WHEN THE GOSSIP IS ABOUT YOU
If you’ve ever been the subject of gossip, you know how much it hurts. You’re either finding out that your trust has been betrayed or that something negative is being said about you. It’s understandable that your first instinct may be to confront the rumors head on.
As much as you may want to mitigate any damage the gossip may cause, it’s best to letter cooler heads prevail. Take some time to let your emotions die down so you can approach this with a clear, calm mind. Once you’re moved past the initial hurt, you’ll be more prepared to deal with the gossip without making the situation worse.
Sometimes the best solution is to ignore it, hold your head high and let time take care of the rest.