Have you ever said something and then the second it left your lips thought “why the heck did I just say that”?
I have. More than once. ? I am not talking about dumb questions or poorly thought out ideas, I am talking about gossip. Even typing the word causes a nagging feeling of shame.
I thought once I was out of high school the days of gossip would be over, but nope. Personally, I discovered that this nasty conversation habit resurfaced once I had kids. I have caught myself more than once talking with a parent about another parent. I am not proud of this and it always feels gross after. So what is the truth about gossip and why we do it? Unfortunately, I think we sometimes mistake gossiping for connecting. Let’s be clear, talking about people behind their back is not connecting. I think it is important though to clarify that there is a difference between ‘debriefing’ or ‘venting’ and gossip. Usually, when we are ‘venting’ it is about a situation we are directly involved in. Gossip is when we are speaking about other people or situations that have absolutely nothing to do with us and often in a negative way. As a mother of daughters, I want to teach my girls to have strong healthy friendships, to trust one another, build each other up, support and love one another. I don’t want my daughters to think that the best way to connect with their friends is to talk about other people behind their back. I also don’t want my daughters to be worried about being vulnerable with their friends out of fear that it might be used against them and repeated to others without their permission. Yet, here I am, a grown woman still on occasion finding myself doing just that.
So why do we do it? I asked some friends about this and here is what I learned. One friend brilliantly declared “we use it as currency”. MIND BLOWN. I had never thought about it that way but she is so right. We often use gossip to get closer to people, to get ‘in’ with people and even sadly enough, to show our worth. These are tough truths to admit.
Recently, I found myself in a situation where I was confronted by a friend wanting to know why I had repeated something she told me. My answer was simple. I honestly just did not even think about it. Yikes. Has talking about other people become so common place that we don’t even think about it? These are just the flippant conversations on the sidelines of your kids’ activities while visiting with other parents that you say without thinking. You know, just making conversation. Ugh. These are by no means malicious, unkind conversations, but surely we can find other things to talk about. My friend was not even particularly upset with me for a few reasons: 1. She knows me well enough to know I was not trying to be unkind, 2. She gets that unfortunately, often our fallback way of connecting is talking about other people, 3. I owned it immediately and apologized. We are good friends and we can have these tough and honest conversations. Awkward, yes, but so important. I seriously value a friend that will call me on my ‘stuff’ in a loving, non judgy way.
One friend brilliantly declared “we use it as currency”.MIND BLOWN. I had never thought about it that way but she is so right. We often use gossip to get closer to people, to get ‘in’ with people and even sadly enough, to show our worth.
I have been trying to catch myself lately if I notice that I am about to say something that is either none of my business, or about someone else and to just shut my mouth and ask myself why I am about to say it. The motto at my kids’ school is “before you say something, ask yourself, is it true? Is it kind? is it helpful?”. I know this is super Pollyanna but they are seriously good questions to ask ourselves before speaking. I want us to challenge ourselves in our conversations with one another to be brave and kind.
As Glennon Doyle so wisely explained in her powerful Ted Talk ‘Lessons From the Mental Hospital’, we need to learn how to be “brave enough to tell our own stories while being kind enough to not to tell anybody else’s”. I know it is more difficult to tell your own story then it is to tell someone else’s, but trust me, this is the only way to genuinely connect with one another.
My sis and I. This is connection.
How to Deal with Gossip
1.Hard truth coming up here…Not every person you meet or even become friends with will be a safe person to be vulnerable with. Pick these people carefully and then make the effort to replace gossip with honest, genuine, vulnerable conversation.
2.If you find that the people you are spending time with are not people you are safe to be vulnerable with, THESE ARE NOT YOUR PEOPLE. Find new people.
3.If you catch yourself falling off the wagon and in to the old habit of gossiping, notice it, own it and apologize.
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