By Linda Arnold EBS CONTRIBUTOR
Gossip is tempting. We hear things about people all the time. But where do you draw the line between normal curiosity and being part of the rumor mill?
Most of us have been the subject of gossip at some point in our lives, and we’ve all felt the sting of humiliation that goes along with it. On the other hand, we’ve all done some gossiping of our own, and we may have hurt someone’s feelings as a result.
Most gossip stems from fear, anger or jealousy. The gossiper wants agreement and validation from others. The burden, then, falls on the listener. And you always have a choice.
Listen carefully to how a person speaks about other people to you. This is how they will likely speak about you to other people.
A lot of gossip takes place in the workplace. The American Psychological Association has conducted research around employees venting to coworkers and reports this venom can take on a life of its own and start to define the work-place culture.
Gossiping is the coward’s way of expressing anger. To put someone else down in order to make yourself feel superior is a giant red flag for insecurity. Ultimately, gossip only offers temporary gratification, which calls for the cycle to repeat in order for that adrenaline rush to continue.
So, what can be done? Can one person actually make a difference? With time and repetition, the answer is yes.
Here are a few tips to put yourself on a gossip-free diet:
- Watch out for patterns. Don’t put yourself in risky situations.
- Stop gossip in its tracks. Don’t take the bait. Make it known you won’t spread gossip.
- Be courageous and stand your ground. Walk away if you have to. Throw in a comment about the subject that turns the gossip on its head.
- Take the “No Gossip” pledge. Build on the popularity of current movements, the “no texting while driving pledge,” for example, and hold each other accountable.
Your group may be skeptical at first. After all, we teach people how to treat us. If you’ve taught those around you that you’ll keep the gossip going, it will take demonstration after demonstration of the new behavior before you can be effective.
Gossipers need supportive listeners and are unlikely to continue if their point of view is being challenged.
The following phrases, drawn from employee-assistance programs, could be helpful:
“I don’t think talking about the problems Sue is having behind her back is going to help her.”
“As Sue’s friends (coworkers), I think we should come up with better ways to support her instead of talking about her.”
“I know my feelings would be hurt if I knew my friends (coworkers) were talking about my personal problems and spreading things around.”
Remember, when you take delight in others’ misfortunes, you’re actually setting yourself up for misfortune. Buddhists would call this karma.
Here are some rewards you’ll likely feel by not engaging in gossip:
- When you remove yourself from gossipy situations, the gossipers will eventually go somewhere else.
- You’ll feel much better in time, without that sense of betrayal and guilt.
- A lot of drama and stress will be eliminated from your life.
Linda Arnold, M.A., M.B.A., is a syndicated columnist, psychological counselor and founder of a multistate marketing company. Reader comments are welcome at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit lindaarnold.org for more information on her books.