How Gossip damages the foundation of trust, safety, connection and loving relationship. How to respond to gossip when others approach you with it.
By Sevin Philips MFT
The Hidden Dangers of Gossip
Hello, my name is Sevin Phillips. I’m here to talk about gossip. It’s that age-old pastime. We’ve been doing it for centuries. Most of us would agree, it’s hurtful. If it happens to you, boy, it can really sting. Yet, we continue to do it. There are some hidden dangers in gossiping that I think you should know about.
It’s more than just that it’s hurtful to somebody else or that it’s hurtful to you. It erodes the fabric of what I think is most essential for us as human beings. We want to be in close relationships. We want to be connected. We want to be safe and we want to feel like we can trust one another. Gossip does not do any of these things.
At some level, I think two people feel like they’re bonding when they share this kind of negative information about somebody else. But deep down inside, we’re learning not to trust each other. Wouldn’t that other person do the same thing to you if the situation was reversed? I think we know that. It’s really keeping us further away.
When we speak in a mean-spirited way about somebody else, sometimes we have a lot of hurt feelings and we just don’t know what to do with them. So, we gossip.
The first suggestion is to talk to the person who did it and try to work it out. But there’s actually a safer way to do it if you don’t want to do that and you just want to share with your friend about what happened. If you share the behavior that happened but relate it to why it matters to you, you’re going to be in a much cleaner stage of having a conversation that could potentially lead to healing or moving the conversation forward into something that’s meaningful to you. This same of logic can be turned around.
If you decide to quit gossiping, it’s a little scary. People are going to come to you – family and friends – and want to still gossip and you’re not going to know what to do. If you take the same sort of strategy and turn it around on the person and they come to you to speak ill of somebody else, just make it personal. Make the conversation about, “Why does that matter to you? Did you consider talking to the other person about it?”
Maybe even get to the root of why this hurt so bad. Maybe it’s something that’s happened to this person a lot in their lives. Maybe they’re really sensitive to being criticized. Whatever the case might be, make it personal. Then you make it meaningful – and then we’re on to something that actually can heal us. That’s what we really want to do.
I hope this is helpful. I’d love to hear what your thoughts and ideas about this are. I definitely encourage you to stop gossiping in your own life. At a bare minimum, take an examination of your own life and look where it is. Notice how it feels after you gossip, and I guarantee you, you can feel the poison of it. You won’t feel better after you gossip. You’ll feel worse. It definitely isn’t something that works for us.