People gossip for many reasons, often due to insecurity. Most gossip arises from either a misguided desire to defend oneself against another who is perceived as harmful, or in order to connect more strongly to others in our social groups.
How can gossiping be distinguished from other ways of sharing information in a social context?
Firstly, by intent. Gossipers often have the goal of building themselves up by making others look bad and exalting themselves as some kind of bearers of knowledge.
Secondly, by the type of information being shared. Gossipers speak of the faults and failings of others, or reveal potentially embarrassing or shameful details regarding the lives of others without their knowledge or approval. Even if they mean no harm, it is still gossip.
Pope Francis’s words offer us a clue as to where to draw the line between gossip and heartfelt conversation: does the conversation aim to work toward unity and reconciliation, or is its aim self-assertion or putting down others?
How can we deal with gossip?
- Before speaking, ask yourself these several simple questions mentally about what you’re about to say before speaking aloud:
- How would you like it if someone said this about you or your beloved ones?
- Is it true? Maybe it is, but is repeating it necessary?
- Is it kind? It may be true, about yourself or someone else, but if it will harm another, you have no right to repeat it.
- Is it just?
- Is it honest, compassionate, with the person’s best interest at heart?
- Does the other person need to know that?
- When speaking about other people, choose positive words. It might be fun to say a little nasty joke behind someone’s back laughing at people’s clothes, hair, careers, talent, choices, and/or emotional state. However just because things are fun and easy doesn’t mean we should do them. Challenge yourself to resist that temptation.
3. Silence is good. Don’t just talk to fill the air with conversation. Speak only when you feel that your words are better than your silence.
4. Be careful who you open up to.
5. Be indifferent to gossip about yourself. Spending time focusing on the negative things people say about you will totally damage your focus and leave you questioning yourself. In order to forge ahead and stay true to yourself, you have to not care about other people’s opinions of you or your work, unless it provides constructive criticism.
And don’t forget the feathers of gossip: once a gossip leaves someone’s mouth, no one knows where it ends up. It flies on the wings of the wind, and it is impossible to get it back.
- Gossip: The bad, the good and the ugly
- Four ways to avoid gossip
- How to not gossip
- How to avoid spreading gossip in 5 easy steps
- What is gossip anyway?