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You’re Gossiping and You Don’t Even Know It

GOSSIPING

People say all the time “I never gossip” but unfortunately many of them are mistaken. 

They do participate in gossip, they just don’t realize it. 

Because we think of gossiping as “telling” secrets we’ve heard; but there’s more to it than that. 

To listen to gossip is to participate in gossip. 

Why?

Because when you listen to gossip you create a clearing and an environment for an emotional person to propagate their story. 

In other words you give a gossiper an audience. And that invites and encourages them to continue talking about whatever it is that they are talking about. 

Listening to gossip will at minimum make the person feel more validated and at most fan their flame to share even more. 

Because it’s hard to listen to gossip and not be agreeable and supportive of the person you’re listening to. It’s human nature to want to empathize with another person- especially when they’re frustrated or complaining. 

But by doing that you become an active member of the gossip crowd. You are advancing what is being said. 

So how do you know if what you are listening to is gossip?

Simple: Gossip is anything even remotely negative being said about a person who isn’t there. 

The moment someone you are talking to starts talking negative about another person you have immediately crossed into the gossip zone. 

And remember if you’re listening to gossip then you are participating in gossip. 

So how should you respond?

Also simple: You interrupt the person as quickly and politely yet firmly as possible and say “Hey, hopefully you don’t mind but I actually made a resolution this year that I would not talk negatively about or listen to negative talk about someone who isn’t in the room with me. I do want to support you and be a good friend though and the biggest thing I’ve learned that helps is to go talk directly with ________. I think that would probably help.”

This of course is simple but not easy. 

And yes you may lose some friends over this. And the ones you lose will probably be vocal about you being on your high horse because misery loves company and misery often gets angry when their company moves on and leaves them alone. 

But it’s the best thing you can do for yourself, the person who isn’t there, and the person who is frustrated. 

Because, as Eleanor Roosevelt is credited with saying: Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people.”

Are you hard to be friends with?

friend

Great relationships develop not from the absence of conflict but from establishing an agreeable protocol for working through disagreements amicably.

If you find someone who you can “fight” well with, then chances are you’ve found a friend for life.

Half of resolving disagreements though has to do with your end of the dispute. You have to be able to receive feedback and coaching from your friend in order to have a hope for restoring that relationship.

One weakness that I’ve noticed about myself in my own life is that I haven’t always been the best at receiving feedback.

At times, it turns out, I have been a D.I.P.

D. Defensive – When people offer you feedback, do you defend yourself? Do you explain yourself? Do you try to justify why you were doing what you were doing? None of those things make you a bad person but all of them make you difficult to communicate with.

You have to remember that when people are giving you feedback it’s as much about them having some emotion they need to express to you even possibly more so than it is about delivering useful information to you. If you defend, justify, or explain – even if it is fair points you are making – you make it nearly impossible for them to feel resolved because they feel like you never heard what they were trying to tell you.

Which now means they are upset with you about two things. The first is the thing they were originally upset about but the second is that “you don’t listen” which has now been added on top.

Instead of defending, justifying, or explaining instead try to just ask questions. Don’t try to teach them something, just respond to everything with a genuine question that gives more clarity and detail to what they are trying to communicate to you.

You can always decide later that they are just totally out of their mind crazy and that everything they said had no value or truth to it whatsoever. But for now just listen. Ask questions. And take notes. Say “tell me more.” Then give yourself a day or two before you respond.

I. Insecure – When people offer you feedback, do you get emotional? If you do, it is almost a clear sign that you are insecure about something. Because when we are insecure, our brain starts to mental mushroom and it tries to attach meaning as to why this person is saying it what they are saying.

Our brain starts to run off in crazy directions adding extra meaning to what they are saying and coming up with crazy scenarios about why they are saying it – which makes it impossible again for us to actually be listening to them.

We respond emotionally to what we “think” they’re saying instead of just listening or processing what they’re actually saying.

P. Personal – When people give you coaching about how something you’re doing could be improved, do you internalize it as if they’re saying something is wrong with you?

It’s so easy to forget that just because someone is critiquing our technique, doesn’t mean that they are challenging our character.

Do your best to not make their feedback mean anything more than what they’re saying. Stay focused on the isolated behavior and instance of the behavior they are offering a suggestion on. Don’t extrapolate it into what their personal feelings may be about you.

If you ever feel yourself starting to get emotional when you’re receiving feedback, that’s a good sign that you’re being a D.I.P. – just like I have been.

But there is no need to be. Instead just be coachable, adaptable, curious and open to change.

For it is a great sign of maturity when you can seek to understand even when you have simultaneously been misunderstood.