Why Should Gossipers Ruin it for the Rest of Us!
We all know someone who is a malicious gossiper, right? Someone who lives to get the “dirt” on someone and pass it along to everyone else. Someone who likes to feel powerful because others fear their judgement and scorn. Someone who doesn’t seem to mind embellishing and/or bending the truth. But telling the rest of us that “talking behind someone’s back” is what’s wrong with their behavior is akin to saying swimming pools are bad because people have drowned.
“Talking behind someone’s back,” (or discussing what’s happening in my life, as I like to call it) is not inherently bad. In fact, it is inherently good! As humans, saying things out loud and having our words witnessed by another human seems to be critical to processing and learning about our feelings.
Trying ideas on by presenting them as if they are real is sometimes how we know we don’t actually agree with what we’ve been thinking. Sharing our feelings, especially our contentious feelings, and having another person validate them allows us to feel safe and normal.
There seem to be two types of people (in addition to malicious gossips); those who believe there can be value in talking about disruptive experiences with a trusted friend, and those who believe it is wrong or, at least, naughty. For those of you who believe that talking about someone in a negative way when they aren’t in the room is naughty, here are some ground rules. If you follow these ground rules, it isn’t naughty, and will actually allow you to grow, feel better, and lighten up!
- Only tell the truth. If you find yourself wanting to exaggerate, acknowledge it and attempt to resist.
- Make sure your conversation is centered on having your listener understand how you are feeling, as opposed to examining why the person you are talking about is wrong.
- Be willing to change your mind. Often we have a reaction to an interaction because we don’t have all the information. If you receive new information, be willing to change your point of view.
- Consider circling back to the person whose back you have been talking behind. This isn’t necessary or required, but if this person matters to you, if you want to grow and support a relationship with them, you need to be willing to tell the truth, even when it’s emotional or tough to do.
I know a lot of very nice people who believe it is unkind to talk behind another person’s back. And I am often struck by how not speaking about contentious feelings keeps them ignorant of solutions that discussion would reveal. It keeps them ignorant of how they actually feel and yet the social standard means they have to struggle to speak up.
And, quite frankly, the malicious gossips of the world rely on the fact that folks aren’t going to get together behind their backs and recognize what bullies they are.
Help break the code of silence. Take a risk.
Tell someone how you feel on the inside!