by Catherine Pratt
Whoever gossips to you will gossip about you.
A Spanish Proverb
Gossip can be found in just about every office. Some will say it’s just harmless fun but rarely is that the case. In fact, it’s a great way to destroy your own self confidence. Gossip is seductive though and it’s very easy to get caught up in it. But, have you ever thought about why you do it when you know you shouldn’t?
Here are the main reasons people gossip:
• It makes you feel more powerful or popular
• To attract attention and feel center stage for a moment
• It makes you feel like you’re part of a group (bond with co-workers)
• To be seen as “in the know”
• Because you’re frustrated and just want to vent
In other words, we mostly gossip because we feel powerless and not in control of our current situation. Gossip is an attempt at gaining back that control. It’s also sometimes used as a way to boost your self confidence but it ends up doing the exact opposite. If you find that you do gossip, you need to take a look at what’s happening in your life. Do you feel like you’re powerless? What positive changes can you make? It’s important when you’re feeling out of control that you’re able to take action instead of only reacting to the events that occur in your life.
The other side of this is that if someone gossips to you, you need to ask, “Why are they telling me this information?”. You’ll probably find that at least one of the above points will answer your question. This tells you a lot about the person who’s gossiping to you.
So, how destructive is gossip to you? Take a look at what happens when you gossip:
• You lose all credibility with your co-workers and people will no longer trust you. They’ll wonder what you’re saying about them to other people. They'll also feel if they tell you something in confidence, you may spread that information. Once you lose your integrity, it’s very hard to get it back.
• You may find that the person you gossiped to will go and tell the very person you talked about. Instant office conflict. Also, you’ll probably feel bad about saying those things in the first place. Or if you have gossiped in an email, other people could end up seeing that email (walk up behind the person when they’re reading it, it gets forwarded by mistake, etc.). Also, people tend to keep email forever so something you said 6 months ago may come back to haunt you.
• You’re going to worry about what others are saying about you. You end up making yourself paranoid when you probably don’t need to be.
• It creates conflict for no reason.
• It decreases the morale of your workplace which in turn will affect your own mind set.
• It cuts productivity; yours and others.
• You may end up wasting a lot of energy worrying about things that never happen (layoffs, change in staff positions).
• You get wrong information (could be very damaging depending on what you do with the information). Someone says “so and so said this about you.” It may not be true and now you have bad feelings about someone and a situation that may never have happened.
• It could affect your career prospects (if management knows that you gossip, they’re far more likely to pass you over for a promotion). Also, at some point in the future you may end up having to work for that person you gossiped about.
• Karma – remember the old saying, “what goes around, comes around”. When we spread rumours and gossip, it will end up coming back to hurt us.
• We usually end up creating a negative work environment and who needs that?
These are all things that end up damaging your self confidence.
Why are you doing it? (power play, to feel like you belong, to make yourself more popular)
If these are your reasons, then don’t do it. The wrong motives will lead you into trouble every time.
• Would you want other people to know that kind of information about you?
if you wouldn’t, then don’t say anything.
Usually it’s best to just “bite your tongue”. And the more often you resist the temptation of gossip, the easier it will get. Gossip is just not worth it.
So, what do you do if you work in a gossip infested workplace? Here’s a few suggestions for the next time someone starts gossiping to you:
• Change the subject – try to have something else you can talk about. Make it a positive subject.
• Distraction techniques – "Hey, do you want to go get a coffee?” Get the person distracted on to something else.
• Don’t say anything – just let them finish and don’t say anything. They’ll quickly learn that you aren’t interested in gossiping.
• Tell the person – you can tell the person you’re not comfortable about talking about the particular subject. For example if someone is telling you about the latest rumour that your department is about to undergo staff cuts, you can say , “It’s a rumour. I don’t want to think about that until I know it’s true. I can handle whatever happens. It’s not worth worrying about things that may never happen.” Or if someone starts talking about someone else, you can say, “Let’s wait to discuss that until Joe can be here in person.”
• Ask "Why are you telling me this?" - Health & Fitness suggests asking the person, "Why are you telling me this?" as a way to dispel any self-serving motivation of the person speaking the gossip but also as a way to let them know you're not interested in gossiping. Be careful that you don't alienate the other person by using this one. You don't want them to feel like you're putting them down. You could add, "Let's talk about something more positive."
• Say, "I don't know the person very well." - If someone starts gossiping about someone else, you can reply, "I don't know 'x' very well. I've always had a good experience with her [or him]." By using this, then you don't have to add anything else to the conversation. You've said you don't know the person well enough to join in but you've also added a positive spin to the conversation.
• Say, "That hasn't been my experience." - this works similar to the above option. You're explaining in a nice way why you won't join in on the gossip but also added a positive spin to the conversation.
Each time you avoid getting involved in gossip, the easier it will get. It’s the first couple of times that it will be a conscious effort to resist the temptation. It helps if you can remember the benefits you'll gain by not slipping into this bad habit. You'll find that your self confidence starts to improve greatly and people will have more respect for you. You’ll probably also find that you don’t waste anywhere near as much as time as you used to worrying about things that never come to pass. You’ll be able to focus on what’s important and what you want to accomplish in your life.
Always aim at complete harmony of thought and word and deed. Always aim at purifying your thoughts and everything will be well.
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