People gossip. They always have, and they always will. Gossiping is a conversational pastime shared by people and societies across the globe and throughout history. The problem with gossip, though, is that it is usually negative in nature and can become nothing more than a critical, belittling, hostile, and hurtful form of dialogue.
Gossip is hard to avoid. Gossip also can become quite infectious. Before you even realize what is happening, you can get caught up and carried away by its swift, surging current. At the same time, it can be easy to forget the destructive power of gossip… how it can hurt… and humiliate… and shame.
If you have ever been the subject – or victim – of gossip, you know how painful and damaging it can be. You know what gossip can do to people. It doesn’t matter who you are, how old you are, where you live, what you have or do not have... knowing you are the target of gossip can leave you feeling wounded, embarrassed, betrayed, sad, and/or angry.
Yes, gossip will always exist. Yes, it is difficult to escape. But, there are a whole lot of things in the world that are a whole lot more interesting to talk about than the details, rumors, or secrets of somebody else’s life. Gossiping is a choice. We can choose not to gossip.
Here are a few steps that can help circumvent gossip.
Do not engage. When someone comes to you with a piece of gossip, do not be an attentive audience. Do not react to what is said. Do not offer feedback or opinions. It is no fun to gossip with someone who does not join in.
Always respect the privacy of others. It is really quite simple. You do not want people talking about the personal things in your life so do not talk about the personal things in anyone else’s life. Keep private information to yourself. If you respect other people's privacy, they will be much more likely to do the same for you.
Voice your concern. Let the person who is gossiping know you are not comfortable with the direction your conversation is taking and that you would like to change the subject. Try to be direct and resolute, but also nonjudgmental of the individual speaking. Hopefully, you will have a positive impact and perhaps inspire the person to think twice next time before judging other people or speaking about their personal business.
Do not circulate gossip. Do not spread rumors you hear about someone else. Make sure gossip stops with you. Do not pass along anything you are told about someone else’s personal business. Gossip can not spread if people refuse to repeat it.
Walk away. If it is not possible to redirect the topic of discussion, find a way to remove yourself from the conversation. Find something else that needs your immediate attention. Perhaps you have to make a phone call or you need to speak with a friend across the room.
Change the subject. Instead of taking part in gossip, talk about something else. Steer the conversation in a completely different direction or try to find something positive to say about the person who is the subject of the gossip.