Irene ran into Karen at the store. After greeting one another, Irene mentioned she heard Karen was pregnant. Startled, Karen asked where Irene heard that and learned that Mark, a mutual “friend”, was spreading the news. Irene had recently purchased baby clothes for a shower, but was not pregnant herself. Mark heard Irene was buying baby clothes, jumped to a conclusion, and started spreading the news. Irene actively tries to distance herself from Mark.
I ran into Mark at the pool one day. In the short time it took me to enter the water, I learned the entire story of Oscar’s cousin’s passing and that Oscar was struggling with his grief. Oscar was in the pool; I planned to speak to him shortly and Mark preempted his news. I too actively try to distance myself from Mark.
Gossip is deadly. It causes a lot of relationship problems. In the workplace and any other organization, it is known as a cancer.
And yet it persists.
Some people like to talk about what others are doing. Some, like Mark, are even compulsive about it. While they might think it makes them the person “in the know”, it is typically seen as a sign of weakness. People who have to be the one in the know are seen as trying to make up for low self-esteem. Their actions hurt feelings, drive others away and can cause other problems, some serious, for themselves and others.
Some people like to listen to gossip. Perhaps they like to know others have problems too, especially if it can make them feel better about their own situations. Comparing yourself to others doesn’t solve anything, and doesn’t make anyone feel better for long. It is a waste of energy.
Some people don’t like gossip. They might think it is a waste of time and energy. (It is.) They might think it is disrespectful. (It is.) They might be afraid of what is being said about them. They don’t trust gossipers, and avoid them.
Before deciding whether to pass along a juicy tidbit of gossip, ask yourself a few questions:
- Would the person involved prefer to control who, what, when, where, why and how to relate the information? After all, it is their information, not yours. You save yourself trouble by keeping quiet about other peoples’ business. If they didn’t ask you to tell someone, don’t.
- Are you doing this to stroke your ego (e.g. create the impression you are “in the know”)? If so, know that others see your intention and it reflects negatively on you.
- Is the information true, kind and necessary? If so, you might thoughtfully and selectively tell others, being clear why you think you need to tell them.
- Will gossiping support the image you want others to have of you? If people don’t think you can keep a secret, they won’t trust you or open up to you. They are much more likely to avoid you.
If you still have any doubt, don’t say anything. Respecting others is always a good strategy.
Eleanor Roosevelt said: “Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people.” Strive to be great.