We live in a world that is largely manipulated via communication. Gossip, heresay, whispers, rumors and dirt have been around probably since humans first began talking. I bet if we thought about it hard enough, we could find an example with 'Adam and Eve' correlated to gossip. It's fun to think about, right?
The question isn't if people will talk about you behind your back, it's when. When it's negative communication, it'd be nice to know what course of action to talk, wouldn't it? A few things come to mind. The first is to do nothing at all. Hope in humanity would lead us to believe that if people really wanted to know the truth about you, they'd take the time to experience your behaviors first-hand. These people exist but the world isn't overly populated with them. Doing nothing at all does a couple of great things: it lets them know that you aren't really phased and they'll most likely move on to the next juicy story. Also we need to remember, the person that started the rumor lies...and it's pretty easy to lie. Confronting them just gives them more ammunition to continue their muddy version of you to others. This leads to the second gain received by doing nothing - by doing nothing, you're distancing yourself from them. The less they know about you, the safer you are from character assassination via gossip.
Another important aspect to gossip stems from awareness around the real issue. And here's the good news, it's not you - it's them. People who gossip do it to manipulate/control others. This stems from a lack in their character, not yours. It's easier to be less upset when we understand that the information is coming from a pretty shallow source rather.
What happens when our lives are legit disturbed by Gossip? It's easy to say that their opinion of you doesn't matter but the fact remains that gossip does effect life. Rumors, whispers (gossip) will effect connections of all types, relationships, job opportunities, status in school, status in work and even status in your community (*see political commercials for example). Gossip can damage peoples perceptions of themselves which leads to mental issues of anxiety, eating disorders and depression. In this day and age, gossip has the means of traveling more quickly and efficiently than ever thanks to cell phones and computers. Which is why this message is so important.
I give clients a choice in therapy - I can be nice, or I can be honest. If you're wanting 'honest', continue reading. If you want nice, stop now and smile to yourself knowing that you've gained insight on gossip.
Rumors can't be spread without you.
Here's what most people miss about 'gossip'. In general, people are content to listen and nod when they have the chance to hear dirt on someone else. We enable the rumor-mill by giving no real thought towards verifying anything. Ever wonder why you don't put a lot of energy into discovering the truth about it? Well, here's why; Negative Gossip is used by people to manipulate. That said, only specific people are given 'the dirt'. You are chosen very carefully. It's likely that if you're the one that's being given the 'dirt', you were targeted as someone likely to accept the information as valid...or true enough not to dig into it too far. This means, the person hearing the whispers (and just accepting them as valid enough) is reflecting the same integrity and character as the person that started the communication chain. Now that's good stuff.
Until next time,
Jed Thorpe, CMHC