There was a time in my life when I believed you weren’t on the “inside” unless you knew the “inside scoop” about everybody. For a long time I had a FALSE sense of connection with other women when I would partake in gossip. Even writing that down makes me feel icky, but I wouldn’t be writing it down at all if I believed this problem was unique to me.
Gossip is something SO many women have been hurt by, yet continue to perpetuate, and if we can’t recognize the vicious cycle for what it is, we WILL fall victim to its pattern over and over again.
According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, a gossip is defined as a person who habitually reveals personal or sensational facts about others.
I love that definition because it reminds me of another quote that a woman I admire shared with me years ago from Eleanor Roosevelt.
I listened to a podcast by Ben Bergeron a while back that has stuck with me wherever I go. He said that gossiping tells people far more about who YOU are than the person you’re gossiping about. Gossip tells the person you’re gossiping TO, ‘I am NOT trustworthy.’ On the contrary, if you hear someone gossip and you defend the person being talked about, you are telling people around you that you are LOYAL.
I’m the first to want to empathize with a woman who feels like she’s been wronged. I CRAVE connection with other women, but I HAVE to believe we can empathize and connect WITHOUT tearing down another person in the process.
How do we identify and then deflect the gossip? Is it possible to remain connected without participating?
Whenever I get a hunch that the conversation is going into uncomfortable territory I try to ask myself before speaking, “Would I have the courage to say this about the person if they were standing next to me?”
Boy, do I wish I could say that I’ve always answered that with a resounding yes, but before you go thinking I’ve mastered the art of deflecting gossip I want you to know what a work in progress I really am. More times than I care to admit I’ve walked away from conversations thinking I said too much or I listened too long.
I like to remember that we have ALL been hurt at some point in our lives AND we have also ALL been the HURTER, and that connection remains whether or not a name is attached to the situation. In fact, I‘d venture to say our connection can be DEEPER and more widespread when a name isn’t attached to the situation.
Whether gossip stems from insecurity, pain, a desire to feel connected, or just sharing a juicy tidbit, recognizing its harmful effects can decrease the likelihood that you’re caught up in another uncomfortable situation. Don’t be afraid to change the subject, defend boldly, or if you have to, permanently separate yourself from a toxic environment. Because the temporary satisfaction of participating in someone else’s gossip will never outlast the consequences.
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