Five Steps to End Your Love Affair with Gossip
by Susanne Reed, Ph.D.
I don't know what it is about statements such as “Hey, guess what?” or “Do you promise not to tell anyone?”, but my heart starts racing, my eyes brighten, and my attention is fully fixed on the person delivering that juicy piece of gossip. It is like a newly formed love affair that you know will never work out in the end. That sense of euphoria comes when you first begin the conversation, giving you a brief high. Then after the gossiping or love affair is over, you realize it was wrong all along, and you feel guilty and saddened that you ever let the gossip or affair happen in the first place.
I am fully aware of what gossip and rumors can do to a person. I have been the victim of gossip and rumors, untrue gossip and rumors. Yet, I still engage in the conversation. I get my fix. I get my gossip high, which only lasts about a minute, and then the after effects begin to set in: the guilt, because I swore to myself I would no longer gossip; the frustration, because I am angry with myself for not being able to avoid gossiping; and the dread, because I know this situation will happen again if I do not make some serious changes.
If you are like me, gossip has, at one time or another, made you late for a meeting, distracted you from work, and interfered with family time. My gossiping ways and the disappointment I have for myself has driven me to find a way to reduce and hopefully eliminate these behaviors. I am taking several steps in doing so: educating myself on various gossip topics such as good gossip vs. bad gossip, workplace gossip vs. social gossip and then setting up five specific steps to help overcome my gossiping problem.
Good Gossip vs. Bad Gossip
Gossip, whether rumors or facts, takes place when you talk about someone mainly behind their back and when they are not around. There can be bad gossip or good gossip, both with very different motives. Bad gossip is the gossip that has the intent to bring the person being talked about down or to make them look bad in some way. This is the gossip that makes you feel guilty afterwards and makes you want to repent and ask for forgiveness, which I have often done. When we participate in bad gossip, we are really hurting ourselves as much as those we gossip about.
Good gossip is just the opposite, when the intent of the gossip is to make the person look better and portrays them in a positive way. This type of gossip makes us feel great, positive and proud. Good gossip is stating the truth about someone and that truth is done with the sole purpose of making that person look great in the eyes of others. I love the idea of good gossip. This allows me to gossip but offers the challenge of keeping the gossip positive.
Social vs. Work-Place Gossip
There are two major places where gossiping exists, in our work environments and in our social lives. Work-place gossip is gossiping about a co-worker, boss, or situation that is taking place in the office or place of employment. If you find yourself discussing the boss and his or her spouse, clothing of co-workers, after work habits of fellow employees, or anything else similar to this then you are involved in work-place gossip.
Social gossip involves gossiping about friends, family or acquaintances outside of the office setting. If you get home from work and immediately get on the phone to call your friend to talk about the “crazy” waitress that waited on you in a restaurant, then you are a social gossip. If you can't wait to call your mother and tell her what your in-laws have done then you are a social gossip. If at the dinner table you are talking to your husband about all the dirty little secrets of your best friend, then you are a social gossip.
There are times when the two types of gossip overlap but for the most part; they can be categorized into one of these two groups. If you are like me, you have found yourself gossiping in both places. Because of this, I felt driven to find ways to reduce the percent of time I spent gossiping throughout my entire day and to eventually stop altogether, especially when it involves bad gossip.
5 Steps to End the Love Affair with Bad Gossip
Of course there are many more than five steps that can help you to stop gossiping and, as I mentioned before, I love the idea of good gossip. Therefore, the most important thing for us to do is to end our relationships with bad gossip. Listed below are just the steps that I am taking to end my love affair with bad gossiping and I hope they help you as well.
- COMMIT – just as you would commit to quitting
smoking or drugs or any other addiction, commit to quit gossiping.
Once you make a commitment, you become very aware of your actions,
which is one of the most helpful things we can do for ourselves in
this journey. If we become aware, we can begin to make changes.
- PRAY – pray about everything, especially
your problem with gossiping.
- DON'T MAKE EXCUSES - don't try and
justify the gossip by saying things like “I'm not gossiping,
I just don't want you to get hurt”, “We need to
pray for John, he's having an affair with his secretary”,
or “I think Jane needs our help, her child is on drugs.”
Sometimes it is easy for us to convince ourselves that we are not
gossiping when in fact we are. We rationalize our gossip to avoid
feeling guilty about what we are really doing. So, don't rationalize,
justify or make excuses to gossip.
- DISCONNECT and REDIRECT- avoid the people who
like to gossip with you and who you like to offer gossip to. Just
as a recovering addict would not go and hang around a bunch of drug
heads, we should stay away from the gossip heads. It is the same concept
of recovery, only ours deals with words.
With redirection, you are simply diverting the conversation to something more positive. Changing the subject from negative to positive (from bad gossip to good gossip) is a great way to convey you are no longer interested in talking about others, unless it is in an affirmative way. You can certainly replace the negative comments being said about a person with positive ones.
- IMPLEMENT STRATEGIES - there are a variety of strategies to use to stop gossiping. For example, buy a wristband and wear it around your wrist. Each time you gossip, switch it to the other arm. This is a similar concept to the negativity bracelet. The point of the bracelet is to make you aware of your behaviors so that you can change them. Another strategy is to reward yourself for not gossiping. Each time you avoid a situation where you would normally gossip, give yourself a dollar or a dessert or something that you really like. After all, you have done something great by not gossiping. In contrast, you could also fine yourself five dollars every time you gossip and then donate that money to charity.
By following these steps, it is very likely we can become better people and eliminate our problem of bad gossip.
About the Author:
Susanne Reed, Ph.D. is a freelance writer living in Pennsylvania with her husband and son. She currently works for Manito, Inc., an alternative education organization and teaches Life Skills to middle school students. She enjoys writing in her spare time. She has been published in Delta Magazine and will have upcoming articles published in P31 and Spotlight on Recovery. In addition, she has written a book, Dear Parents, Get Smart, that was signed by the Winsun Literary Agency and is presently being marketed to publishers.