We’ve talked about the importance of positive self-talk, avoiding the comparison trap and disengaging from so-called “fat talk,” and today we’d like to tackle a similar yet different topic: gossip. We’ve long wanted to do a piece on how corrosive gossip can be to yourself and others, and we found the perfect guest blogger and life coach to do it — Sara Yamtich!
Sara is a self-proclaimed multipotentialite, which basically means that she’s had multiple careers and is an unapologetic dabbler. She has undergraduate degrees in anthropology and gender studies and a masters in social work. She’s been a social worker, policy wonk, non-profit marketer, writer/editor and yoga instructor. Having lived on both coasts and on another continent, Sara now resides in Fayetteville, Ark., where she blogs and works as a life coach to help unconventional individuals turn their dreams into real-life revolutions. She loves red wine every bit as much as she loves green juice. And she’s generally reading three books at any given moment. Follow her on Twitter, @saralizer.
Read on as Sara shares with us why gossip is so darn bad for us — and how we can commit to giving it up!
Give Up the Gossip, Girl
You know that moment … when a perfectly lovely conversation with your best girlfriend suddenly spirals into a judgmental lashing session of a mutual acquaintance.
Oh, it feels so good at the time; the words just fly off your tongue, with easy nods and blatant eyerolls. It’s a venting session, right? And you needed to get it all off your chest, yeah?
But afterwards, you feel dirty.
And for a moment, you blame the wine. Or your accomplice. Or you tell yourself it was justified. Until you realize the truth: you just succumbed to that devastatingly destructive and cliche age-old tradition — you gossiped with your girlfriend.
And darn it! You meant so well at first. How did it come to this?
Well, first off, don’t beat yourself up. Self-flagellation never helped anyone. There are reasons that we silly flawed humans behave this way.
For one, it’s a low-hanging fruit for bonding with friends. It’s easy to talk about other people. And we love to feel in-on-the-joke, included.
Moreover, when we’re abundantly aware of so many of our own flaws, it can feel downright delicious to dish out criticisms of other people in our lives. At least we’re not that bad off!
Conversely, maybe the object-of-our-objection is actually pretty amazing, and we’re just a tad envious. Knocking ‘em off that shiny pedestal gives us a little temporary ego lift.
Or finally, maybe it’s pretty darn straight-forward, and we’re just pissed at the person and want some retribution.
Regardless of the reason, the impact sucks. Gossiping fuels a toxic fire that can only spread and cause more damage; it hurts everyone involved. And we know this. Nothing is ever so simple as a gossip column would have us believe. People are complicated beings.
So How Can We Overcome This Nasty Habit?
When you find yourself talking about someone, assess and determine if you’re about to cross any lines. Ask yourself, “What is my intention for saying this?” Dig deep. Get real with yourself. (If you’re truly talking about someone in order to understand the human condition or provide support to that someone, you’re golden).
And if your dinner companion starts to cross the line into gossip about that mutual acquaintance, be ready with some responses.
Start out with empathy and understanding for your gossiping friend, and then compassionately redirect, without judgment.
Say something like, “I totally get why you’re telling me this right now. But I can also see their perspective.” Or “Yeah, I know they can be tough sometimes, but I always try and remind myself that I never know what the other person is going through.”
See what I’ve done there? Subtly nudge your dear friend into a non-judgmental and empathetic place by being non-judgmental and empathetic yourself.
And if it doesn’t work, you can always change the subject. Or start complimenting your dinner date, because you can never go wrong with flattery.
Who wants to resolve to give up gossip in the New Year? —Sara Yamtich