Gossip is wrong, no matter how you look at it. Spreading malicious rumors will not only hurt the subject of the gossip, it makes you look bad. Whether you do it with your friends in a social setting or talk about someone by the office coffee station, you’ll come across as a petty person who doesn’t know how to behave.
If you are a habitual gossip, others will eventually lose trust in you as a friend. Not only does it show bad manners it hurts friendships and damages professional relationships. Once you say something, it is impossible to take it back, so always think before speaking.
When one of your friends does something you don’t like, there are two proper ways to handle it: Confront him or her and state your case, or leave it alone and let the issue fade. If there is an ongoing issue, you are probably better off discussing it with the person, but whatever you do, never take it to someone else. Remember that no one is perfect, including you, and you need to treat all your friends with respect by honoring the Golden Rule.
Gossiping is such an easy habit to fall into, we often don't even realize we're doing it. We start out saying something benign, and then the other person may make a comment that initiates a full-blown discussion. The brief comment may wind up taking on a life of its own and turn into something that isn't 100 percent factual.
When the rumor gets back to the subject of the gossip, he or she is likely to be angry. If you were told something in confidence, your friend will never be able to trust you again.
Your boss has called you out on a mistake, and you're angry, so you storm back to your desk and spew the first negative thing about your supervisor that comes to mind. Whether or not it is true, this is another way gossip gets started.
As a company grows or shrinks, people love to chitchat about what is happening. They may start with a sliver of truth and blow it out of proportion. Before you know it, the rumor that the company is going out of business sends everyone into a tizzy, and it might even wind up hurting the very business that delivers your paycheck, making your gossip a self-fulfilling prophesy.
Another thing that you may discover is that many offices have cliques. One group likes to party on Friday nights after work, and they provide tons of material for the next week's gossip. Another group is quiet, and the mystery that surrounds them leads others to chatter with "what ifs" and speculate what they think may be going on. Or another person is having trouble at home, and people come up with all sorts of things that might be happening. Before you know it, the discussion is out of control, and the gossip mill is running full throttle.
Whether you are in school or you graduated decades ago, you probably remember how quickly rumors can spread through a school. While one person may be known for cheating on an exam because she was always a C student but made an A or someone partied a little too much the weekend before. Whether the rumor is true or false, once it starts spreading, it's like a freight train that is difficult to stop. It may start out with jeers and jokes, but gossip at school can ruin reputations.
Etiquette of Dealing with Gossip
When you are tempted to gossip, stop and think for a few seconds. Consider how it would feel if you were the subject of whatever it is you're about to say. Remember that it is never okay to say anything that isn't true, and even if it is, what is the benefit? Chances are, there are no benefits, unless you need to warn someone about impending danger. If that's the case, take the comment to the proper authorities who can actually do something about it.
Tips on how to prevent gossip:
- Stop and change the subject. As soon as someone starts to gossip, intentionally discuss another topic. If the original person tries to go back to gossiping, give him or her a firm look and switch again.
- Defend the subject. Even if what is being said is true, defend the person in the most logical way possible. If you know that the gossip is a lie, call it that. If there is a grain of truth or you're not sure, say that you don't know the circumstances behind whatever it is being said, and you don't want to continue with this discussion.
- Leave. If the gossip continues, simply walk away. The people doing all the malicious chatting will get the message. Just be warned, though, that you might be the subject of the next gossip session.