Gossip hasn’t always been considered a bad word. The word ‘gossip’ first meant godparents or a familiar acquaintance and was used to describe someone who told of a family’s news and developments. During the time of William Shakespeare, a gossip was also someone who sat with a woman through childbirth, perhaps to talk, offer comfort, or to help her pass the time.
We use a lot of different words to describe gossip. We chat. We yak. We get the scuttlebutt. We gab, we dish, and we chew the fat. We hear it through the grapevine, listen to the word of mouth — sometimes straight from the horse’s mouth. Tongues, they wag. There must be something important about all this idle chit-chat to demand such an extensive and colourful vocabulary! And we all do it. Very few people proudly admit to it, but we all gossip. Some of us even relish it.
While some religions and cultures frown upon the practice more than others, gossip in one form or the other happens all over the world among people of all ages.
As our communication technologies have sped up, so has the spreading of our gossip. Whip-quick messages zip around us all day long about this person or that person, this celebrity or that politician. Where word once travelled, via word of mouth that may have taken hours or even days to reach its listeners, it now travels in seconds via Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp, Instagram, blogs, emails, cell phones, etc. People love to hear and talk about cruel things about other human beings.
It’s been said that knowledge is power. Unfortunately, many people like to spread damaging information or intimate details about others, whether it’s true or not. This is what is called gossip. If you know something juicy someone did over the weekend, it’s easy to feel like you have to tell it to others. We especially like it when we hear something that makes someone look bad.
The most dangerous part about gossip is that it steals another person’s reputation. A reputation is very fragile. When you gossip, you are helping to destroy something extremely valuable.
If you think it’s time for you to decide you don’t want to have any part of gossip, here are some tips on how to do it.
- Make a commitment that you’re not going to gossip: Even though the temptation to gossip is powerful, you will always win when you choose not to use it. And really, with all the gossip, there’s no way of knowing for sure what is true or not.
- Don’t listen to others when they gossip: Gossip grows an audience. You simply being there listening to it adds to its appeal. If someone starts to tell you something gossipy, say, I’m sorry, but I don’t feel comfortable talking about this person when they’re not here to defend themselves. Not only will you break the gossip chain, but you will also gain the trust of other people, as someone who won’t spread rumours.
- Don’t judge people based on gossip: If you should hear gossip about someone you don’t know, you have two choices: Allow the gossip to determine what you believe, or let your own personal experience determine what you think. The first time you have an experience with someone that is contrary to the gossip you’ve heard, you’ll be a lot more careful about spreading or believing gossip the next time you hear it.
- Think twice before you speak: Before you repeat something you’ve heard about another person, think: Does this really do any good for me to spread this information? Or am I just trying to be in the know? Is the information even true? Could I be hurting someone by telling this, even if it’s true? If the person you are talking to is not part of the problem or part of the solution, there’s no need to tell them anything.
- Stay away from people who gossip for they will gossip about you too: Don’t associate with people who find such great joy in belittling others. Be very careful about what you choose to tell these people. If it’s a close friend, you might consider saying how you want to stop spreading gossip, and that you’d really like her help.
There’s an old saying that goes like this: “Stick and stones can break my bones, but words will never hurt me”. That’s not true. Being gossiped about can be extremely painful. If you don’t want it done to you, don’t do it to others. In the end, it never pays to gossip.