Do you speak poorly of your boss and how mean they are? In reality, you’re talking about your own lack of patience and understanding.
Are you gossiping to one friend about another friend who is bothering you? What you’re really doing is telling the one friend that she can’t trust you not to talk about her too. My mom used to say, “those who talk to you, talk about you” and I still use that wisdom to this day!
Do you bad mouth your spouse to your friends, family or on social media? Then you are simply showing your own lack of integrity and trust.
In the past I have fallen prey to talking poorly of others or, at the least, not leaving or changing the subject when gossip starts. However, these days I’m learning to keep my mouth shut unless it’s truly out of kindness. When I talk about people, I want it to only be in a good way.
So how do you get out of situations where people are speaking poorly of others?
This is not an easy situation. On one side you want to help the person that is talking through the issue but you also want to defend the person being discussed (since they are not there).
My suggestion is to simply ask why they are telling you this information. That usually indicates to them, you do not want to partake in the gossip and most of the time the subject gets changed. Secondly, you can state that it might be best to take the issues/concerns up with the person directly if they truly want a solution.
“ I can see this is difficult for you, you may want to talk with them directly.”
“ I don’t see how I can be much help, this sounds like a discussion for you guys and I hope you guys can work it out.”
Not all people who gossip do it to intentionally hurt others. In fact, divisive speech sometimes is meant to be cathartic (but honestly, it’s still not good). Studies also show that people often talk about other people as a way to avoid looking at something difficult or painful in themselves. The gossiper is likely hurting, scared, insecure, jealous or seeking attention and it’s possible you may be able to change the topic matter and help them instead.
Use this checklist, then excuse yourself from the conversation if it doesn’t sit well in your heart.
- Is the gossip cathartic in nature or vengeful?
- Is only one side of the story being told?
- Do stories or instances seem exaggerated?
- Is the gossiper seeking validation for their own feelings or behaviors?
At some point, we have been the victim of slander and the ring leader of the gossip circle.
We have all experienced the destruction gossip leaves behind.Whether we mean direct harm, or not, the result of gossip is always broken trust and hurt feelings.
Some quotes to ponder
“I resolve to speak ill of no man whatever, not even in a matter of truth; but rather by some means excuse the faults I hear charged upon others, and upon proper occasions speak all the good I know of everybody.” ~ Benjamin Franklin
People gossip. People are insecure, so they talk about other people so that they won’t be talked about. They point out flaws in other people to make them feel good about themselves.” ~ Blake Lively
“Often those that criticize others reveal what he himself lacks.” ~ Shannon L. Alder
“If you can’t say anything nice, then don’t say anything at all.” ~ Aesop (c.620-560 BC)
One of my all-time favorites:
“Gossip needn’t be false to be evil – there’s a lot of truth that shouldn’t be passed around.” ~ Frank A. Clark