How To Stop Engaging With Gossip
This is always a tricky one and if I’m honest I was better at this when I was younger than now, often not wanting to speak up for fear it might cause conflict. The truth is I think I’ve just lost sight of how important it is not to engage with gossip, even if I might do so in a passive way. I have to admit I’m disappointed in myself for doing so and I’ll be making a special effort to adopt the following strategies myself.
Change The Subject
This one might be obvious but in the heat of the moment it can feel quite difficult to do, especially when the conversation is in full swing. Try thinking of something fun or positive to talk about, like an upcoming event or even a holiday another might have planned.
Say Something Positive About The Person
This is often the best way to communicate that you are not comfortable with the direction of the conversation without having to say so directly – a good strategy to have in your bag! Think of something positive about the person in question and if you can’t, think about something compassionate you could say like ‘bless her, she might be going through a really tough time right now that we just don’t know about’.
Confront Gossip Politely But Assertively
This is of course the most courageous thing to do, though not everyone may feel able to act on this one, especially in larger groups. If you would like to know more about assertive communication please read my article titled ‘Assertiveness; A Journey Worth Taking’.
Point Out Missing Information
If you see that not everything is being taken into consideration or there is missing information in someone’s gossip, so long as you don’t reveal any secrets, point it out – it may just be the nudge they need to stop gossiping around you.
How To Protect Yourself Against Gossip
Throughout my school life I was often the victim of malicious gossip and, let me tell you, it was a truly awful experience. Whilst you might not always know if others are gossiping about you (much less who the perpetrators are) most people suspect that others are gossiping about them because of others reactions to them.
Luckily, if you suspect others are gossiping about you there are many things you can do to minimize the damage without resorting to gossiping yourself.
Alert Your Friends
Warn your friends that you believe someone is gossiping about you and tell them the truth about the situation. Try not to use this as an opportunity to ask your friends to be spies on your behalf, simply say that you want them to know the truth and then proceed to tell them. This way they will be less easily swayed by malicious gossip.
Confront The Source Of The Gossip Directly (When Calm)
Again, this is incredibly hard to do, but, given careful consideration and planning to what you want to say, it can be very effective. Only do this if you are one hundred percent certain of who is spreading the gossip.
For more on how to approach such a difficult conversation I would highly recommend reading ‘Crucial Conversations Tools for Talking When Stakes Are High’ by Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny, Ron McMillan, Al Switzler’.
Keep A Healthy Self Image And Make A Lifetime Achievement Record
I have fallen short of this in the past. It is so difficult when you are the subject of gossip and those around you start to behave differently towards you. When this has happened to me in the past I have doubted who I am and started to question whether there was any truth behind what others were saying.
Whilst I think it’s good to remain honest about my weaknesses it is a fine line between self reflection and believing others lies. I can’t deny I still struggle with doubting myself at times but I have learnt just how important it is to foster a kind attitude towards myself and maintain a healthy self image.
One of the best ways I have found to do this which really gives me a boost is by reading my lifetime achievement award. It’s super fun to do! I simply brainstormed my achievements and listed examples of the positive qualities I extended to my friends like thoughtful and kind acts. Once made mine I felt really positive about myself.
Jazz up your award by typing it, getting funky with fonts, printing it on colored paper and placing it in a frame. Then update it annually to remind yourself how far you’ve come, placing it somewhere visible as a source of inspiration, motivation and encouragement.
Ignore the put downs resulting from being the subject of gossip. Choose to rise above it and be the person you have always been. In my experience this not only catches those who belittle you off guard but it shows them they do not hold the power to negatively impact you.
Keep Your Routines And Remain Yourself
I am guilty of this one. One of the first things I often do when I am the subject of gossip is to hibernate. I don’t do it as often anymore but it is easy enough to do. It’s as if social situations start to become battle grounds in your mind’s eye because you feel like you are constantly being watched and evaluated by others.
The best way around this is to face your fear of social situations head on. Meditating beforehand is also a great way to relax and get into a calm state of mind before socializing. Keep going to social outings, don’t let the gossip win by robbing you of your social life too!
When you are out just be yourself, remember you have nothing to prove to anyone. Don’t be defensive or on edge with people you had previously considered friends, be the kind, caring and friendly person you have always been.
Remember, even although it might feel like everyone is against you, in reality they probably aren’t – don’t let the gossip start a self-fulfilling prophesy whereby people start to believe the gossip based on the fact you are a little defensive with them.
Tell An Authority Figure
You don’t have to go through being the subject of gossip alone. Tell someone in a position of authority directly if you feel things are getting unmanageable or out of hand (but be prepared for action to be taken).
If People Ask Tell The Truth About The Situation
This doesn’t happen often but occasionally people that have heard gossip about you may ask you about it personally. If this does happen resist the temptation to get angry and defensive and rather calmly tell the truth about the situation. You could also ask who they heard it from should you have the courage to discuss it with the person who mentioned it to others directly.
Stay tuned – next week we will discuss how to focus more on the positive.
Do you consciously disengage from gossip? How did you do it and how did those gossiping respond? Do you fear going against the crowd and trying to disengage with gossip? Please share your thoughts in the comments below to gain encouragement, understanding and support from our community, we’d love to hear from you.