I’m on a gossip fast. I had no idea how difficult it would be to stop myself from participating in gossip. Giving up chocolate would likely be easier. Okay, just kidding about that, but I am finding it truly challenging to not join in when people I am around start talking negatively about someone not present.
I started my gossip habit as a teenager. I liked feeling like I was part of a group and was being included. Gossip is seductive that way. It lends itself to the “us” and “them” dynamic. As long we’re gossiping about someone else we’re on the same team and from there it is a short road to travel to feelings of slight superiority.
Another aspect that I liked about being part of the gossip group was that as long as the conversation was about other people, it wasn’t about me. Of course, I am not now so naïve as to believe that as soon as I leave the room the topic of conversation doesn’t swing in my direction. That’s the thing about people who love to gossip. If they gossip about others in front of you, it’s a pretty good bet they are gossiping about you in front of others.
But the bottom line was, I simply stopped feeling good about myself after participating in gossip. Even if I felt included and part of the “cool kids” while gossiping or being present for gossip, I never left a tittle-tattle session feeling like I had been part of something good and worthwhile. In fact, I usually left feeling quite the opposite. I felt guilty and judgmental and other things I generally try to avoid feeling.
I still find it way too fall back into that pattern of sitting around discussing, and frequently laughing about, others, after which I feel badly for having done so. Now, I don’t believe any of us intend to be mean or to truly hurt anyone, but it seems we all often walk a fine line between having a good chat and stepping over into gossip. I kept finding myself on the side of that line that I was trying to avoid so I set up a criteria for gossip. To me, gossip is saying something about someone else that I wouldn’t want said about me.
So, using that criteria, I decided to go on a gossip fast, not knowing how difficult it would be. In several instances I’ve had to change who I spent time with and now choose who I do share time with based on what we talk about when we’re together. I now choose to be around those people who, if they do talk about others, do so positively and with respect and compassion. Conversations that run others down, make fun of people, or express pleasure in someone’s misfortune are off limits. I choose to spend time with people who are positive in their conversations and attitudes.
And you know what? I recently found the courage to ask someone to stop gossiping in my presence. They looked at me like I had lost my mind and had very little to say in the absence of gossip mongering, but they did stop…for awhile. But gossiping is a habit and they were unable to stay away from it for long.
I can understand that. I still catch myself listening in, even adding a catty comment now and then when the conversation swings toward someone not present. But I’m getting better at stopping myself, even excusing myself and leaving the scene, if necessary.
The best part of my gossip fast is that instead of getting smaller, my circle of friends seems to be growing larger. Even better — I like myself a lot more after sharing time with them.