Gossip: The Relationship Killer

Gossip is woven into the fabric of our society and it is killing relationships. Entire magazines and television shows are created solely for the purpose of gossip. Has society so accepted it that we find it entertaining? If so, we are in big trouble because it is very damaging to everyone involved, including observers.

I recently experienced the pain of being the target of gossip. A friend of mine had bumped into someone at a store, and this person proceeded to spend thirty minutes speaking badly of me. My friend was so torn up about it she came and told me. She felt badly about bringing it to my attention but didn’t want rumors flying around about me.

I know it must be a shock to my readers that anyone would have something bad to say about me – hahaha – but you don’t get to be a ‘relationship development’ specialist by getting it right all the time. It takes making mistakes and learning from them.

Before I go on, you need to know that I have had the opportunity to address the issue and I have forgiven this person, who has since made things right.

This experience reminded me how damaging gossip can be. As I wrote in a former article, Words are Powerful’, our words actually carry the power of life and death. When we gossip about another person even if it is true – and that is a big “EVEN IF” – it can cause a lot of damage. In most cases however, it is based on lies or at best partial truths, in any case it can be devastating. It damages not only the other person’s reputation; it damages yours. When you gossip TO someone, it is more than likely that you will gossip ABOUT them as well. This breaks down trust and makes your relationships unstable.

While there are many reasons people gossip such as anger, disappointment or jealousy, more often than not it is insecurity. Something in us just needs to prop ourselves up by pointing out the failures of others. Unchecked, it can really hurt everyone involved.

Perhaps the greatest damage is the potential for third-party offence. There are two types of third-party offences. The first is when you are offended by someone because of what another person told you about them. In this case someone gossiped to you directly about them and you took on their offence. The second is when you are offended for someone else. In my case, my friend was offended for me by the comments spoken to her about me. Both of these are damaging to the person who listened to the gossip.

Nobody escapes the effects and so we must all work together to stop gossip in our society. It starts with each of us committing to stop gossiping and stop listening to it.

Here are three practical ways of doing this.

  1. Stop Yourself – It is easy to slip into gossip during a conversation. When you realized you’ve crossed the line, stop yourself and tell the person you are talking with what you did, and apologize. That person will respect you for doing so and you will become a role model in the stop-gossip movement.
  2. Stop Others – If someone begins to gossip to you about someone, simply ask them to stop. Explain that it does not feel right to you and encourage them to work out the issue directly.
  3. Stop Listening – If you happen to overhear others gossiping, simply walk away. If you are bold enough, you may want to explain your departure. Also turn off the gossip shows and stop reading gossip magazines, as they create in you an unconscious assumption that it’s okay to gossip.

One last thought on this: If you have gossiped about someone and you know it has caused damage, go make it right. Ask forgiveness and commit to not doing it again. You may find a great friendship in that person that you didn’t know was there. I know it isn’t easy but it is that simple!

Next week I will give you the ONLY time it is okay to gossip!