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5 Alternatives to Gossip

5 alternatives to gossip

Gossip (n.): Casual or unconstrained conversation or reports about other people, typically involving details that are not confirmed as being true.

I would add a few extra elements to this definition:

  • It usually involves a violation of someone else’s boundaries: information told in confidence, information shared against someone else’s wishes, etc.
  • It’s rarely positive
  • It usually affords a sense of moral superiority at another person’s expense.

I don’t like gossip. I want to be a good person (i.e. live with integrity) and, while I can’t control whether people gossip about me, I can control whether I gossip about other people; others gossiping about me doesn’t feel nice but knowing that I’ve gossiped about other people makes me feel much worse.

I used to gossip. A lot. I was insecure and talking down other people helped me feel like I had more comparative value. But after learning more about shame and vulnerability, mainly through the work of Brené Brown, I’ve become a lot more conscious of how damaging it is, not only to other people but to ourselves.

Gossip is the antithesis of empathy and compassion, and it’s a very small step from gossip to shaming.

Despite knowing this, gossip is something I’ve found hard to tame in my own life. Even when I’m super conscious of not wanting to gossip, I have still found myself getting involved in gossipy conversations and wanting to indulge. Avoiding it is challenging but the more I practice finding another outlet for the gossip urge, the better I feel about how I show up in the world.

Here are five practices that I’ve found helpful on my journey towards a gossip-free zone:

1. Journaling

Journaling is a great way of expressing our frustration or judgements about someone or something without doing any damage. We get the satisfaction of expression and emotional release, without having to deal with the consequences of having shared inappropriate information with others. Writing down our thoughts and feelings also gives us a valuable record that we can revisit and learn from later.

2. Meditation

I have a pretty rocky relationship with meditation. I know it’s good for me but sometimes it is sooo darn uncomfortable. I’ve found that putting bum to cushion and just doing it is most challenging, but definitely most helpful, when my monkey mind is going nuts. If I can resist the urge to gossip as an outlet for my feelings and practice sitting with them instead, I inevitably come out the other end in a much better place.

3. Honesty

If you have an issue with someone, be honest about it with them. If we’re not honest with people about our feelings and then we trash-talk them behind their backs, how can those people trust us afterwards? Having the vulnerability and the courage to be honest with people when we’re feeling hurt, annoyed, rejected, or any other uncomfortable emotions is hard… but then so is not having any friends.

4. Perspective 

There’s a fine line between gossiping about a situation and processing a situation. The key differences are the focus and intention of the conversation. We all find ourselves in situations that we need to talk through with others so we can process our feelings and figure out the best way forward. I stop those conversations shifting into gossip by focusing on being authentic and exploring how I feel, rather than judging or claiming moral one-upmanship over someone else.

5. Vulnerability

Gossip is a barrier to intimacy. (click to tweet)

When I stopped focusing on other people’s vulnerabilities and started focusing on my own, I (somewhat counter-intuitively) began to feel more secure in myself, and I found that my relationships with other people deepened. Instead of spending my time with others talking about absent third parties, I shared more about myself. As a result, I felt far more visible and accepted for who I was.

What alternatives to gossip do you suggest? Leave a comment and let me know.

 

Photo Credit: kamshots

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  • Dawn Herring
    October 7, 2013 at 11:34 pm

    Hannah,
    I was especially interested in your post today; this topic is universal and troublesome indeed. One of the worst things I have encountered is gossip, whether in the school yard, the office, in the neighborhood or in the church for that matter! I understand your desire to not indulge in gossip; it can be so hard to draw a line between needing to discuss something distressing you and gossiping about the person who is the distressing source. But journaling comes to the rescue! We can get it all down on the page without doing any harm to the person we’re venting about. We can keep our own counsel instead of sharing with others, thus preventing harm in the first place.

    I have chosen your post, 5 Alternatives to Gossip, as the #JournalChat Pick of the Day on 10/7/13 for all things journaling on Twitter; I will share a link on my website, in Refresh Journal and on the social networks.

    Our final Thursday #JournalChat Live session is this week; our topic will be Your Journaling: STOP it! as we discuss using our journals to list what we want to stop doing in our lives. Our next chat will be on Sunday, 10/20!

    I so appreciate what you’ve shared here, Hannah. I love your multi-faceted approach to keeping gossip where it belongs. Thank you.

    Be refreshed,
    Dawn Herring