The Dangers of Gossip

Gossip is one of the most common problems in the workplace as well as in relationships.  The biggest problem with it is that most people don’t even realize when a discussing takes a turn towards gossip and even worse is that they don’t realize the impact of gossip. Well gossip is a relationship killer and it happens much more frequently than you might want to believe.  Gossip is basically anything that could be seen as a negative spoken about one person to another when they are not there to hear it first hand.  It could be something very simple with zero intent to harm them and it could be as harsh as an intentional slander of someone’s character.

There is nothing good about gossip and it usually hurts the person under gossip and the people involved in sharing the gossip.  There are risks in having the person find out about a person sharing gossip (gossips) as well as the pain and hurt to that person of whatever negative information is spread.  There are many additional dangers of gossip:

  • stress to those involved
  • hurt feelings
  • destroys teamwork
  • destroys the desire for people to share any meaningful vulnerabilities
  • prevents communication that requires trust by encouraging people to keep their mouth shut
  • creates undeserved reputations

Your Own Choices Around Gossip

All of these dangers should be enough to convince anyone to avoid gossip, unfortunately, they are not.  Gossip is temping and often encouraged by the behaviors of people.  Gossips welcome all new gossip and they often turn those who don’t participate in their gossip into their own victims of new gossip. Its often easier to participate than to risk becoming a victim and for many there is also an attraction (for a multitude of reason) to participate for their own reasons.  Gossip is selfish and usually malicious in that it downplays or attacks someone else (whether subtle or obvious) to make the gossips look better in comparison.  This is exactly why its so destructive because it destroys so much in oneself, let alone the victims of gossip.  It destroys your character and puts you into a position where you can’t be trusted.  The power that gossip gives is very temporary and usually short sided which ends up coming back negatively to the gossips.  The most common of these methods is when gossip turns around and the people involved in gossip then become victims of gossip themselves, often within the same group destroying any bonds the gossip might be falsely or temporarily created anyway.  Other consequences of gossip are getting caught, building mistrust, false relationships, spreading untrue rumors and many hurt feelings and people left in the wake of gossip.

The great thing about gossip is that it really is very easy to free yourself from it if you can chose to avoid it and learn a few techniques to help identify it, handle it and stay clear of the problems caused by it.  So how is that done?

Identify Gossip

Many times gossip is quite obvious and undisguised.  It could be as simple as people asking questions about what you heard or know or thought about someone else or their actions.  It could sound like the following:

  • Did you hear what Frank said to Sally?
  • You wouldn’t believe what I heard John did this weekend?
  • I heard that Gerry…
  • Did you see Lisa’s new boyfriend?

All these do not necessarily lead to negative gossip but they are obvious conversations about other people and should be very easy to identify in a conversation or start of one.  Not all gossip is as easy to recognize as this, unfortunately, and sometimes it is much more disguised.  It might even happen when talking with a friend or colleague when the conversation started about simple facts or positives about someone else and shifted to negatives or problems about that person.  If you are not talking about how to help that person, support them to resolve their problems or some other positive action when discussing others, its quite likely its turning into gossip.  Basically, if you are talking about someone else, you need to really stop and think if you are doing it to help them or not.  If your not, its gossip and there is no need for it.

Influencing Gossip

“Death and life are in the power of the tongue.” Proverbs 18:21

Since gossip is so powerful it has a great influence on others and so it must be battled through positive influence in response.  There are a number of actions you can take against gossip.

Ignore it:

  • Avoid people who talk gossip and don’t give any opportunities for them to spread it
  • Simply leave the room or conversation when gossip starts
  • Don’t respond to questions about opinions on others or other gossip traps
  • Ignore gossip and don’t engage in any gossip based conversations

Prevent it:

  • Never start any of your own gossip
  • Change the topic whenever a conversation leads to gossip
  • Refuse to listen or respond to any gossip you are faced with
  • Hide any hurt feelings or dramatic reaction to gossip.  This fuels the gossips to continue as its often what gossips want to generate.

Confront it:

  • Politely say that you would prefer to talk about that person when they are present
  • If you know the source of gossip, go and confront them immediately and calmly tell them you do not appreciate them talking about you and that it causes hurt feelings whether intentional or not.
  • If you hear someone start some gossip, offer to go to that victimized person with the gossiper right away to discuss it.
  • Simply respond to gossip, “Would you like to have someone share that about you without you knowing?” and walk away.
  • State I don’t like talking about other people because I don’t like them talking about me.
  • State that you don’t talk about others unless its to help them or support them
  • State that you don’t want to talk about others negatively unless they are involved in the discussion
  • State that you don’t want to talk about others negatively unless they are involved in the discussion

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