Isn't it funny how when you are in the market for something, it starts showing up all around you? Like when you are in the market for the latest model Honda Odyssey you start noticing 2019 Honda Odysseys everywhere you go? And when you're in the market for growing your family, you start noticing babies everywhere?
Last week, I felt convicted about something. I wanted to stop talking about other people. It was a strong conviction, and one I didn't want to ignore. The crazy thing is, suddenly the world around me seemed to be gripped by the same conviction, in the market to stop the gossip.
I tuned into Coffee and Kettlebells, my Burn Bootcamp Podcast and guess what the title of the episode was? "Why People Gossip...Avoid It." I coached Girls on the Run on Tuesday, and guess what we talked about? Gossip and how when we say something unkind about someone else, it's hard to take it back. I told a friend about my conviction to stop talking about others and guess what she told me? She had challenged herself to give up gossiping for Lent.
Clearly I am not the only person who struggles with gossip and wants to change.
So, I did a bit of digging around to find out why we gossip, and how to overcome it.
First of all, let's define the word gossip. Webster's Dictionary gives two definitions of the word, used as a noun. Definition one is "a person who habitually reveals personal or sensational facts about others." Definition two is "rumor or report of an intimate nature." As an intransitive verb, Webster's defines gossip, "to relate gossip." So, in a nutshell, a gossip is a person who reveals personal information about others. Gossip can also refer to the actual information that is being relayed. Make sense?
The word "gossip" has a negative connotation. No one wants to be known as "a gossip," nor do they want to learn that people are "gossiping" about them. So, I want to clear the air a little and let you in on something...
Talking about other people is not all bad. It can be used positively when...
It gives insight into others. An interesting snip-it about someone else is just another piece of the puzzle, uncovering who they are, and what makes them tick.
It gives us an opportunity to "warn" others about entering into potentially sketchy relationships or interactions based on what we know about someone else.
Talking about others is bad when your motive turns from sharing information or giving a heads-up, to putting others down in order to make yourself feel better.
Talking about other people can turn into gossip when...
It is an outlet to avoid or ignore something difficult we are facing in our own lives. We may say something like, "Well, at least I'm not as bad as _________."
It provides us satisfaction in another person's misfortune. We are secretly happy when someone else gets let down because on some dark level it makes us feel better about our own place in life.
So, you can see from these bullet points that talking about others is not always bad. Of course you want to know more about your new neighbor. So, when you bump into your other neighbor on the sidewalk and she tells you a story about how and why this new neighbor moved to the area, you listen. And you certainly want to give your best friend a heads-up when she starts dating someone you knew in college that you've heard can be kind of shady. But it's important that you preface your warnings with, "Someone told me," or "I heard," so as not to present the info as fact.
But true gossip? Gossiping out of justification of our own shortcomings or out of jealousy? This is where we get into the danger zone. Danger of hurting others, and danger of hurting ourselves. So, how do we stop?
6 Ways to Stop Gossiping
Pick a gossip buddy. Designate your spouse, best friend, or mom, as your person with whom to share juicy details. When you choose one person who will lend their ear, it's easier not to gossip with others you run into.
Tell yourself. My friend Tasha recommended this once where we were talking about how hard it is to keep secrets. Go in the bathroom, close the door, and tell your reflection in the mirror the secret that's bursting from your lips.
Notice the side effects. After you spend time talking with a friend, do you feel guilty about what or whom you've talked about? That's probably a clue that you shouldn't engage in that kind of conversation again.
Say no, or pray. It's not a bad thing to tell the person you are talking to that you are really trying not to talk about people, and then change the subject. And don't forget about the power of prayer. My good friend Gloria told me she was once talking to a friend and that friend started talking about another person in a negative way. Gloria started praying to herself and immediately this friend glanced at her watch and said she was late for an appointment and had to go!
Don't rush to judgement. Always question "gossipy" information, and check the source.
Take a one-day gossip fast. Notice where you are and who you are around when you feel the urge to gossip. Notice how you feel when you abstain from gossiping, or walk away from a group who is engaging in gossip. Why do you want to gossip? Is it out of boredom or to sound interesting?
And finally, I came up with some questions I am going to start asking myself before engaging in conversation about others.
I hope this digging around I have done helps you as much as it has helped me. I am sharing this with you not only because I feel convicted about stopping the gossip in myself, but because I see how it hurts those around me, and I would love to have some friends on board who want to challenge themselves as well.
Who is with me? Send me an email if you'd like to challenge yourself to speak encouragingly about others, and not to spread rumors or gossip that may not be fact. We'll hold each other accountable!