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Gossip: Why people do it and how to stop it

Posted at 1:45 PM, Aug 13, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-13 15:45:27-04

Throughout the day, you greet people, have conversations, and attend meetings. Every communication impacts you in some way, either adding value to you or depleting you.

Gossip is a poisonous form of communication that can ruin any kind of relationship whether it's between friends, family members, or co-workers.

Organizations where gossip is rampant are less productive and have higher turnover because no one wants to stay when there's a "drama" going on every day.

It takes valuable time and energy away from what people are supposed to be doing.

The bottom line is gossip is destructive, cruel and wrong behavior and needs to be stopped. Not only are you causing damage to the person you are gossiping about, most people don't realize the internal emotional damage they are causing to themselves.

If you find yourself in the middle of a gossip-fest, this is what you should know and what you can do to stop it.

Val Baldwin, CPC says gossip is saying something that is not true, or not kind and not necessary. The problem of gossip, she says, usually involves groups that are mostly women. She says men certainly have their ways of competing with each other and cutting each other down, but they generally do it in different ways other than gossiping about each other. Women by nature, make connections with others by openly expressing and talking about their feelings.....both good and bad....which can lead to gossiping about others.

Research shows that if you take 10 people who are habitual gossipers, there are two kinds of personality types that emerge.
Type 1: On average, 2 out of 10 people are the self-absorbed, cruel, "all-about-me" kinds of individuals that feel they are superior to others in every way and show no mercy when saying bad things about others.
Type 2: The remaining 8 out of 10 habitual gossipers usually appeared confident on the outside, but were actually individuals with low self-esteem and repeatedly cut down others to try to make themselves feel better about themselves.

Val says neuropsychologists have discovered that a person's subconscious mind cannot tell the difference between when you say something bad about someone else or if you've just said the negative remark about yourself.

Your mind computes the negative remark to be about yourself. That is why a person will often feel bad in their gut after they gossip about another. You feel bad inside. It's your subconscious mind telling you the bad remark was about you. Cutting down others actually cuts you down inside and tears down your self-esteem. So while most people gossip about others to make themselves feel better, the opposite effect takes place. Knowing this new information should change your life and help you stop this negative behavior.

There are three ways to get away from gossip:
1. If you find yourself around people who like to gossip, simply learn the trick of disengagement: don't reply, don't be drawn in, and never do it yourself.
Literally excuse yourself politely from the situation and leave. Tell them you need to make a call, have a meeting, need to get to class, have to pick up the kids from practice, whatever true statement can be made and then leave. Don't participate or get pulled in.
2. The harder, yet more effective way to stop gossip is this: When the person gossiping finishes their negative comments about another person, turn it around by saying something positive about the person. For example: "I know you think Sarah is pretty crazy, but I have to tell you she is an incredible parent. I saw her with her young daughter the other day and she was........" Turning the conversation to the positive about the person typically stops the gossiper in their tracks. You didn't criticize the gossiper, which avoids them becoming defensive. You simply changed the tone and direction to a positive dialogue. It works like magic.
3. The last way, and the most courageous way to stop gossip is to simply say "I don't feel comfortable talking about Sam like this. What I do want to talk to you about is this great movie I saw last week, it's called The Heights. Have you seen it yet?". Changing the subject to a safe topic also works great.

Every conversation you have with others is an opportunity to develop a relationship into something special. When you add something of value, you move it on. When you don't, you move it back. That's why one of the most important rules of masterful communication is: watch what you say. This is especially true of gossip.

For more information you can reach Val on her website: