Avoiding the gossip trap

A man standing next to a monument of woman gossiping

Have you heard the latest?’ ‘Guess what?’ ‘Wait till you hear this!’ ‘Can you keep a secret?’ These are all common preludes to the passing on of private, tantalizing, or even spectacular news about others—a habit commonly known as gossiping."

What does the word “gossip” convey to your mind? A pleasant chat about familiar matters with an old acquaintance, perhaps?

Or, the passing along of some ‘juicy tidbit’ of current personal news at someone else’s expense?

Gossip usually finds its basis in our interest in people and their doings. It might even include commendatory remarks about the person.

Often it takes the form of light and humorous talk, in which there is no bad intention.

On the other hand, what is said may tend to place the person talked about in a poor light. It may be said jokingly, perhaps thoughtlessly.

In her book Gossip, Patricia Meyer Spacks observed:

More common is gossip issuing not from purposeful malice but . . . from lack of thought . . . It derives from an unconsidered desire to say something without having to ponder too deeply. Without purposeful intent, gossipers bandy words and anecdotes about other people.” 

Even when gossip is without bad intent, there are times when it is better that some things be left unsaid. Why?

Why avoid gossip?


They may be truthful, but, then, they may be matters that the third party would not want talked about among his friends and neighbors, and if those matters do not involve their welfare, there is no need for them to know about them.

Here is where empathy is called for. How would you like your private affairs to be the subject of such conversation?

Moreover, It is so easy to slide from harmless talk about personalities into hurtful, trouble making talk! Here is where there is danger.

Do you know where to draw the line? Can you distinguish one from the other? It is vital that you do if you want to guard your lips from trouble making speech.

The question you must ask yourself is: Is this gossip hurting someone? Even if your motive is innocent, such talk can result in hurting to someone.

Gossiping is linked with unwarranted concern about other people’s private affairs.

And it often takes the form of criticism, judgment that is premature because of not knowing all the facts of the case.

Detrimental talk about someone behind his back can produce bad results. The gossiper may be talking to one who is a close friend of the one talked about, and one of two things can happen.

Either that friendship cools off, or the one to whom the gossiper has spoken goes and reports to the person talked about. That can arouse the spirit of retaliation and ill feelings amongst people.

At times gossip can under certain circumstances, become deadly and become slander. Not mere gossip, slander is intentionally hurtful talk. It purposely seeks to put someone in a bad light.

How completely opposite to the spirit of love and of peace!

Such talk that is meant to harm another person, separates friends, causes divisions, promotes sectarian views, and disrupts peaceful relations.

Slander can then be used as a convenient means of venting anger, hurt, and jealousy.

Some will even resort to fabricating untruth in order to inflict pain on someone towards whom they feel ill will.

For example, one girl spread a rumor that her girlfriend was pregnant—apparently because she was dating a boy that she also liked.

Often, negative gossip results not so much from malice as from thoughtlessness as one lady admitted:

Sometimes I realize that what I’m about to say probably isn't 100% true, but it’s almost like an addiction. I say things before I can stop myself—and a lot of times it all comes back to me later.” then, why does she gossip? She says: “It makes me feel important to know something that others don’t know.”

No doubt, there will be always some unflattering piece of information about someone else.

Others may feel that spotlighting the flaws and mistakes of others obscures their own defects.

For yet others, gossip is a tool to promote their own popularity.

They strive to be in the know so that they can be the first to tell others. To enjoy this brief moment in the limelight, they will betray their best friend’s confidence.

Remember, the person who talks to you about others will usually talk about you to others.

People who listen to gossip just encourage the gossipers. Besides, there is always the chance you will find the ‘juicy tidbit’ too appealing to keep to yourself and become part of a hurtful chain of slander.

So, when confronted with harmful gossip, try changing the subject, steering the conversation in a new direction, or saying something complimentary about the one being discussed.

If the hurtful talk continues, take that as a clue that you need to excuse yourself from the conversation.

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