“Gossip is what you say behind someone’s back that you would not say to their face. Flattery is what you say to someone’s face that you would not say behind their back.” These simple definitions are commonly cited to help us distinguish between two dangerous ways we use our words. Gossip in particular has a way of tickling our ears, but it also has the ability to destroy lives, injure relationships, and corrupt individuals.
Gossip can often be compared to germs: it lurks everywhere we go, and sometimes it even resides deep inside of us. We find it around the water cooler at our workplace, down the street in our neighborhood, and even around the dinner table with our friends and family. “Did you hear about what happened to…” or “You won’t believe it when you hear about…” Gossiping about someone means that you’re neither part of the problem nor the solution, yet you insist and making someone else’s business your business.
The first step in pushing back against the power of gossip is to avoid participating in it yourself. This is difficult both because we like to hear gossip, and it can seem rude to stop someone else in the middle of sharing a juicy detail. When you find you’re in a conversation that definitely fits the category of “saying something behind someone’s back you wouldn’t say to their face,” know that you do have the power to stop that conversation. You can do it tactfully by saying, “I’m sorry, but I need to get going,” or by changing the subject by saying, “You know that reminds me of…” and then discussing something entirely different. The less you share and listen to gossip, the less likely people will gossip to you.
But gossip still occurs all around, and it might even be about you. How do you deal with this? Although gossip can hurt, you must remind yourself of one truth: You cannot control what people do or say – you can only control what you do. You might be aware of people saying mean, hurtful, or just flat out untrue things about you, but you cannot control how, when, or why people gossip about you.
There are a few ways to try to “beat the gossip,” though. One way is just to ignore it – blot it out and don’t let it get to you. Another way is to not only ignore it, but try to focus on what you can control; give people as many good things to say about you as possible so that, if there happens to be any gossip going around, it will be overshadowed by your good deeds and hard work. Finally, if you feel it is necessary, you can approach those who are gossiping and kindly, maturely offer to speak with them face-to-face. Gossip is perpetuated behind people’s backs, but it can often be stopped when dealt with in person.
Although gossip is an enormous temptation, we cannot overlook the destructive power of the tongue. Be sure that your tongue and your ears have no part in its insidious nature, and do your best to not let the gossip of others weigh you down.