The Truth About Gossip (Don’t tell anyone I told you)

“She’s pregnant” one of the women said. “The father is a senior, and she’s going to keep the baby.” This is a juicy piece of news for a group of women in a community the size of ours.

It is also gossip.

Random House Dictionary defines gossip as idle talk or rumor, especially about the private affairs of others. Conversation, on the other hand, is when you and I are only talking about ourselves, either privately or in a group. It degrades to gossip when we begin talking about someone who isn’t here and it starts out something like this;

“Don’t tell anyone I told you, but…”

“Just between you and me…”

“I’m not supposed to say anything, but…” and then the speaker proceeds to rattle off details of some private event. Gossip is toxic for both the speaker, and those who have to listen to it.

Think for a minute. When was the last time you participated in a conversation about someone who wasn’t there? Do you like to talk about other peoples business? Do you know someone who does? I do and she makes me really nervous. She is forever talking gossip, and I wonder what she says about me when I am not around, so I try to avoid her as much as I can. According to Susan Hanson, M.S. in her book “Tools for Your Toolbox”, people gossip;

To feel more important (because they feel unimportant).

To feel powerful (because they feel powerless in other parts of their lives).

To feel in control (because they feel controlled by someone or something else).

To feel involved and on the “inside” of things (because they feel like outsiders).

To feel “better than” (because they feel “not good enough”).

To ignore their own problems by focusing on other people’s.

To relieve their own anger and hurt by trying to cause anger and hurt in others.

Obviously, the first step in eliminating gossip in our lives is do not participate. I was in the office of a local professional last week, and this person proceeded to rattle off bits of gossip about two local residents before I even knew what happened. I was disappointed to realize that if I want to avoid gossip, I cannot do business in this location.

Conversely, I met Dr. Lainey Niemiec in the parking lot of Bashas several weeks ago, and our brief conversation just happened to touch upon someone else. I was curious, but her response was something to the effect of “I’d better let her tell you about it.” What a great gossip avoiding response! It confirms that she can be trusted. (Actually, my experience has been that all of the health care providers in our area are really good at respecting privacy, both personal and professional.)

The second step in eliminating gossip is to do a reality check. If you hear gossip that effects you, go directly to that person, and check it out. Last year, my son got into some bad trouble at school, and my editor, Don Sorchych, was getting all sorts of gossip from people on school committees and parents whose children had heard about the situation. I am extremely grateful for the strength of character that motivated him to call me, and check it out directly with me.

In closing, let me tell you about my mom. She is one of the sweetest people on the planet, and our phone conversations usually revolved around my siblings, and their children and what everyone in the family was doing, good and bad. Then one day I suggested that we not talk about anyone else during our conversations, and she was genuinely confused.

“If we don’t talk about other people, what will we talk about?” She questioned.

“Well, you will talk about you, and I will talk about me.” I replied. And you know what? It works. She talks about herself, and I talk about me, and when I do hear about the lives of my siblings, it is from their own mouths! (hallelujah!)

Gossip is sneaky, mean and unhealthy. It ruins trust, reputations, friendships and relationships. I’m going to try to eliminate it from my life. Maybe you will join me. The best reason is summed up by Marlon Brando when he said,

“If we are not our brother’s keeper, let us at least not be his executioner.”