by Madeline Laughs
I was taking a trip down memory lane looking over past blog posts this morning and I noticed that I used to write a lot about people that gossip. I read over some of the older posts and realized that they don’t trigger me anymore the way they used to.
In the past, when I would go back and read one of my posts about the dreaded and feared gossip, I could feel the anxiety creep over me like a shroud. All of those old insecurities and feelings of helplessness would slide back in just like an old friend. Once more I would feel that loathing and that hatred for people that run their mouths for reasons to hurt someone.
But today I could read them and feel completely detached.
My newfound growth surprised me and delighted me.
A mean gossip is one of my most hated personality defects. I can’t stand them! In the past I ruminated about how to handle this and still kept many of the mean gossips as close friends. I tried to teach them how to be direct and how to be a good friend, but I was never successful in flipping one of them. Eventually I gave up trying to change them and started to distance myself.
Without knowing it, I was actually enforcing one of my first healthy boundaries!
At the time, this was very painful for me. I put up walls to protect myself from some friends that I actually spoke to on a weekly basis. I had to accept the fact that my problem wasn’t their problem. They would never change to make me happy and in some cases, they couldn’t help just being who they are. Their idea of friendship was completely different from mine. Their idea of a nice conversation was one peppered with condemnation of everyone else we knew, or perhaps just one person that they truly hated. This is the only way they know how to relate to a friend.
Slowly I moved myself out of their world and eventually out of the periphery of their world, until I became just someone they know.
I missed them during this process. I even missed the drama a little bit. I grieved the loss of their constant companionship, but I worried most that I would now become the subject of their gossip with other friends.
That was a devastating blow for me! I didn’t want them to gossip about me now!
When I found out that they had been gossiping about me with people all along, even from the beginning of our close friendship, that was when I finally started to let go of my fear and loathing of gossipers. That was also when I stopped developing close ties with people that thrive on this kind of connection. I was no longer interested in participating, or listening to gossip, unless it was the fun kind.
I have been and probably will always be the subject of many gossip sessions. It’s not because I’m famous, or titillating in any way. It’s because I’m direct and outspoken in my opinions. I’m not obnoxious about it, but I do make some people uncomfortable.
Discomfort, insecurities, low self esteem issues and every other deficit like this in a human being tends to make them attack and malign anyone that shows strength in themselves. I feel it sometimes too.
The difference between how I behave and how a gossip behaves is that I will make it my mission to express my thoughts to the person before I ever say a single word to anyone else. Most of the time I never mention it to anyone else, unless I’m put in an unavoidable position and I have to say something.
A gossip is kind of like a cricket. They will loudly chirp, chirp, chirp about someone to everyone else, but when the person walks in they get real quiet and never say a thing.
A good rule of thumb is this; if you would never say it to a person’s face, then don’t say it behind their back. It’s just that simple. Think before you speak and if what you’re about to say is not something you would ever have the nerve to say directly to the person, then it’s a safe bet that you really shouldn’t be saying it to anyone else either.
If a friend is horribly mean behind someone’s back, but spends the weekend with them on a ski trip and posts pictures of them laughing together and having a good time, only to return and tell you once again how much they hate the person, then your friend is a mean gossip and not to be trusted. Steer the conversation in another direction and don’t get caught in their web of deceit by offering them any juicy tidbits they can take back to the other friend with “Guess what she said about you!” Trust me, that is exactly what they will do.
When I’ve made an incorrect judgement about someone it makes me feel awful once I figure out the truth. A gossip will never feel bad about the havoc they cause. They’ll just move on to the next drama pretending like they never said a word and will sometimes even deflect the harm towards you. I always feel compelled to apologize. A gossip does not.
Feeling remorse for spreading mean gossip is a good sign that you are practicing healthy habits when it comes to being a good friend. Not gossiping at all means you are a great friend, but no one is perfect. When you aren’t feeling remorse for saying ugly things behind a friend’s back, then perhaps you should reconsider keeping that person in your life. You aren’t doing them any favors and you certainly aren’t helping yourself either.
Once I started slowly weeding this personality type out of my circle of close friends I felt a little lonely at first. I enjoyed being the one “in the know” when it came to these secrets, but I never enjoyed the pain that came along with them. Deep down I probably felt that their disloyalty to their other friends extended to me too, but I never wanted to believe that, so I held onto them.
Letting them go, one at a time, freed me in ways that I grew to relish with time. Now I don’t have to constantly be on guard about what I say, or who I’m talking about because I just don’t participate in those conversations anymore. Whenever I say something that could be interpreted as mean, that person knows that I will say those same words to the person I’m talking about, so really, there’s no fun in that for someone that gossips.
Now my gossip consists of “Did you know she had a crush on so and so?” and usually I place a disclaimer at the beginning of the conversation warning the person that gossip will ensue, but it’s the fun kind. I’m not interested in hurting people anymore.
Make no mistake, there is a difference between a gossip and someone sharing the truth in order to protect you from harm.
A warning about someone that is out to hurt others is not gossip, especially when there are mounds of evidence produced. Just because someone is talking about you, that doesn’t mean they’re interested in you or that they find you fascinating. If you have intentionally made your life about hurting people, then expect others to talk and to share their experiences with the people they love and care about in order to protect them from you.
Spreading rumors and telling a truth about your own interactions with a sociopath or a bully are not the same thing. When you’re sharing your own truth about being hurt or damaged by someone’s psychosis, you are not gossiping and should not keep quiet.
Never be afraid to stand up to a bully, or a liar by telling the truth about what they did to you. The truth is your best defense against them and truth is not gossip.
Practice kindness in all things and actions and remember that gossips are just words uttered by someone that will never have the nerve to say them to your face. The mean things they tell people aren’t about who you are, it’s about who they are.
- You’ve changed, and I don’t like it (madelinescribes.wordpress.com)
- The art of gossip (thesmallestcomma.wordpress.com)
- Stop Gossiping…It’s Destroying Your Career! (drangelaspeakstowomen.com)
- 4 Ways to Use Gossip as a Productivity Tool for Your Small Business (smallbizdaily.com)
- don’t take it personal, but don’t necessarily refuse it, either (sacredlymundane.com)