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Monday, May 16, 2011

population-we™ Tackles the Topic of Gossip with Shhhh! Don’t Tell

“Don’t tell anyone what I am about to tell you and only you.” Such a statement is to be interpreted to tell everyone and as fast as you can according to a friend of my family. Within the hour of hearing such news, he would hear the rumor from another source. He decided it was his duty to share rumors with impunity when he was told not to tell anyone. I don’t know if there is anyone who never gossips. It does create a type of bond or makes a person feel like they are interesting when they are the one sharing something. We can feel remorse and like our lesser selves but sadly we may repeat the process again when the opportunity strikes.

I don’t think it is right to even gossip about enemies. Unfortunately, I sometimes even say things about the people I care about. I know a certain amount of venting can be good but I think there is much that should be left unsaid. I generally give myself permission to say things about celebrities because it’s not like they know anybody that I know and won’t be hurt by my idle gossip there. Yet, I don’t think being a celebrity gives people license to defame another. Few have been both the darling of the media and the victim of the media like Princess Diana. She said that it would be hard for someone with the intense press that she had to be unscathed by it all. At the end of the day, they are people and have feelings. To prove libel against a celebrity, one needs to establish that there was malice. That just doesn’t seem right unless it is to protect someone who is trying to be a “watchdog” for the public good and misprints something that turned out to be a bad source.

I have known friendly people who had a habit of talking about a lot of different people in our companies when they were not present. I took it for granted that they probably talked about me when I was not around. I don’t think I let it bother me too much as I figured they would consider the source. However, one of the people was my superior years ago and I may have worried if that could have hurt me at my job. Both of these people were rather likeable. Yet, I wonder how they thought people could seriously trust them.

One of the most decent young men that I have ever known told me that he decided to go to a private high school to get away from the people at his middle school where a rumor had circulated about him. He didn’t say what the rumor was. The funny thing about rumors is that I might have wondered if there was any truth to it despite how much I thought of this young man.

It may seem innocent to have a little idle gossip between friends. As you dish on other people, you may feel a bond forming. While it is not the healthy bond or a strong bond, it does give the sense of belonging. A person may feel that they are interesting if they always have the latest breaking news. Gossip may seem harmless, but it can hurt. It can hurt. It can hurt. It can make a bad situation worse. The father of Abigail Adams was a Protestant Minister who used to tell her to talk about things and not people. There may be a great many good things that one can talk about regarding people that have nothing to do with gossip. In an ideal world, we should not share the shortcomings of another person unless it is out of concern and wanting to find some way to help the person. 

When my Grandma went to visit her cousin who was hospitalized with Leukemia, my mom who accompanied her heard something that would shape her behavior in the years to come. This lady had been very close to a relative for years until word of this relative gossiping behind her back reached her. After that, she turned her back and left the building when she saw her. The sting was just too great to face her. My mom thought this was so tragic that two people who had liked each other had such a falling out. She vowed to herself to be careful not to say hurtful words that could find their way back to the person. She admits that she is not perfect. Through the years, she has made a concerted effort to avoid conflict and to be kind in what she says regarding others. A person at work commented to my mom that she did not talk bad about others. For this reason and a great many other reasons, my mom is respected. The more we can refrain from gossip, the more self-respect we can gain in this important measure of our character.  
– population-we™ blog post by Barb Bohan
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  1. I guess the problem comes in recognizing gossip, and then having enough self respect, to respect others. Every time I hear some one say something negative about some one else, I try to also share a positive about that person. It makes people realize that while people do bad things, and have bad qualities, that they also have good ones!

  2. Jessica: Agreed, no one can really ever escape gossip. Good for you for counteracting gossip mongrels you encounter with a positive spin. I think that’s a great thing to do! Thanks for sharing this approach – maybe some others will try it.

  3. Jessica, I also think your approach may diffuse the fire of building of negative talk as you shift to the positive. I do know people who have trouble seeing the positive and you are blessed with such a gift.

  4. My mom (also Becky's aunt) raised my three sisters and me to observe three rules: 1. The Golden Rule, 2. If you can't say something nice, then don't say anything and, 3. You always have more time than money (She related it to speeding but honestly it works for way more!). These three rules apply to EVERYTHING in life.
    I've learned that gossip is never good. Even the least malicious gossip can turn malicious when repeated. If you always take the high road, others may see the benefits and follow. Life is a series of choices and I choose to be positive, even while making the occasional bad choice :)

  5. I love this words of wisdom by Aunt Betty. Thank you, Terri!

  6. Terri: Thanks for sharing Aunt Betty’s gossip advice. Growing up, I can always remember her positive attitude -- it was contagious.

  7. Oh, I am holding in a secret that friend A confided in me...I can't share it because it affects not just her, but other important aspects of her life...not negatively, but still. It's an exciting secret, but shocking and one I know would get the WHAT? factor if shared. However, I know it is not my place to EVER share this news, so I will valiantly keep my lips sealed.

  8. lol Jessica. Yes, that is a good way to bait someone to pump you for the details. It is good things you have valiantly sealed your lips!

  9. Jessica: I’m glad you have a best friend like that in your life. We all should. That is a sign of a true BF. One who holds your friendship so true -- they’ll confide their most cherished secret with you. Kudos to your for valuing your friendship over idle gossip!