Gossiping comes naturally to ALL of us. We see a lot of it in the media around famous personalities. But we gossip even in our day-to-day lives, very regularly. You may be a victim of it or you may participate in it. You may tell a friend or a co-worker something in confidence (you think). Before the day is over, almost everyone knows about it. It can be extremely painful to find out your friends and colleagues are talking about you behind your back. But worse, it can severely damage your reputation and even your career.
Gossip doesn’t always have to be a bad thing. Perhaps you gossip to entertain yourself or to lighten the atmosphere. Maybe you’re surrounded by people who see it as a way to bond with you. But gossip turns into a toxic activity when it is done to harm another person intentionally. It affects you in many ways, may even make you anxious and miserable.
If you’re looking for ways to manage this, here are a few points for you to follow:
Ask yourself if there’s any point in the gossip.
Human beings are social creatures, and communication is a vital part of society. So whenever someone starts gossiping about a person with you, ask yourself:
“Does it need to be said?” “Am I gaining something from it?” “Is it true? Do I know the other person’s side of the story?”
If you find yourself saying “no” or “nothing” in your head, you need to stop yourself from becoming an accessory to such toxicity. Imparting information is one thing, but if someone gossips to stroke their ego, it isn’t worth it for you in the long run.
Either listen passively to the gossip, switch the topic or make an excuse and walk away from that situation — virtually and literally. Save yourself from the negativity.
Defend the person (or subject) if possible.
You must understand that the person who’s gossiping with you might not come from a place of truth. You could, therefore, defend the gossip with a detail you know about the person being talked about. Remind the gossipmonger that they’re not aware of the complete picture.
There are two ways in which the conversation will flow: First, they will stop the discussion immediately. Or, they will tell you another gossip on top of it, mostly a personal attack on the person. If this happens, use phrases like: “I don’t know.” “Seriously?” “Is it?”
People who gossip love to be correct all the time. Engage them with words but not emotionally. You’ll be off the hook when they feel they have won despite your defense about the person.
Pick your words wisely during gossip.
When you’re talking ill about a person (and enjoying it), you could use incredibly vicious words. Don’t pass remarks unnecessarily on someone’s character, hygiene, or how they dress and talk simply because you’re gossiping about the person.
Before you start such a conversation, rethink the words you plan to use. Is it possible for you to use a softer substitute for the word? Using lighter words during the conversation can reduce the intensity of the gossip or even cut it short.
Pause for a moment and think about the person.
Whenever there’s an opportunity to gossip, I always think about the person. Why am I talking about them? What do I not like about them?
If you find yourself talking about how, for instance, someone is heavily reliant on his/her family, emotionally stunted, and cowardly, stop and try to identify the problem here. Is this how you feel about the cousin? Do you feel jealous of the attention given to her? Does her family want to be helpful wholeheartedly? Whatever the answers, accept the truth, and move on. If someone’s causing you to worry, it’s best not to fuel your thoughts about them at all!
Cut off negative people from your life.
If you find the gossipmonger constantly challenging your world negatively, remove the person from your life. Break the chain of toxicity. Block them from social media, delete their phone number, and cut all ties — no matter how brutal that seems.
Suppose it’s a family member or an office colleague who gossips incessantly and you can’t break ties with them permanently. In that case, you might have to set a time limit or always have an excuse to leave the conversation.
The best way to stop gossiping is by removing gossipmongers from your life, then there would be no one to tempt or instigate you to spread negativity about a person.
Observe your tendency to gossip.
If you were to spend a day with people who love talking about others, you might begin to notice a slightly compulsive quality in your desire to gossip. When that happens, pretend the person you want to gossip about is standing next to you. Would you say anything offensive if they’re in front of you? In most cases, you wouldn’t. So why gossip behind their backs?