It is human nature to discuss other human beings with one another: to inquire about them, to be fascinated by them, to love or dislike them. Some of the world’s most successful print and web publications base their content on gossip. Sometimes it seems we’re surrounded by gossip and gossipers, and it is likely we’ve all found ourselves in situations where the topic of discussion left us feeling uncomfortable or even confused. I had a conversation about this subject with my Grandmother, and she remarked, “Age doesn’t stop it from happening. It’s just as much of an issue now as it was when I was young.”
Is gossip ever okay? The answer: NO, gossip is never okay, under any circumstances. There is a difference between genuine concern for what someone is going through, and flat-out gossip.
So, what’s the difference?
- When is discussing another person appropriate, and when is it gossip? Discussing an individual’s personal life isn’t ever really ‘appropriate’ – a person’s accomplishments, pursuits, and conquests aren’t typically private matters, though, and we wouldn’t have history books if we couldn’t talk about others. We want to know, to a certain extent, the background of our leaders and government officials. Celebrities put themselves at the mercy of the public domain. Gossip is often nothing more than assumption that leads to a rumor, but sometimes it does begin from first-handed contact with the individual and his or her behavior. If there isn’t a valid point in discussing a person, it is likely inappropriate, or gossip. Wikipedia uses the phrase ‘idle talk.’
- How do you handle someone who gossips? Easy. Dismiss the subject gracefully! All you have to do is simply say: “This is gossiping,” or “This is none of my business, could we please talk about something else?” Only you yourself can be held accountable for how you direct a conversation.
- What should you do if you find yourself the subject of gossip? It’s difficult when you find out that your personal affairs have been discussed without your knowledge. Gossip is most effectively handled by approaching the person or persons and simply asking them why they felt like it was okay to talk about you, and ask them not to do it. Don’t waste too much energy being upset or angry; life continues to move forward. Confronting the situation and moving forward from it is much healthier in the long run than keeping feelings bottled, or letting resentment build.
- What should you do if someone tells you something that raises concern about another person, or about himself/herself? This is the magical situation in where it is (sometimes) excusable to disclose a private matter. You might try seeking advice anonymously, or talk to someone who has proven to be trustworthy about how you might be able to help.
There isn’t a single person on this Earth that has lived a perfect life. Many of us go through struggles that are difficult to make sense of; death, divorce, major life changes, for example. Before you discuss someone else with another person, consider how you’d feel if the tables were turned and you were in their shoes. Take caution in who you disclose personal information to. If someone is willing to talk to you about people you don’t even know, it is likely they’re talking about you, with people you don’t know. Of course, intention is everything. Consider why you want to talk about someone before doing so.
Have something to add? Please leave a comment below on your feelings about gossip.