The Better Me Project—Day 13
What’s harder than avoiding road rage, complaining or accepting compliments? Avoiding gossip. (My grandmother used to say something about gossiping like an old wash woman, so as a kid, I associated gossip with laundry. This was probably as she was gossiping about the next door neighbor she despised…)
Gossip—They Probably Did It While They Built the Pyramids
Gossip…it seems to be the cornerstone of our society and has been for years. While social media seems to cause gossip to spread like wildfire (another reason to Disconnect ), we can’t blame it all on the internet. It’s human nature. People were probably gossiping about Adam and Eve (“What a ho! Did you see that leaf she was wearing?”) I remember waiting on line at the grocery store as a kid and seeing the tabloid magazine screaming out that Elvis was still alive and living as a martian in the Fountain of Youth.
I remember overhearing my parents and grandparents whispering about this person or that person. When I went to school I recall kids talking about each other behind their backs, each year the whispers getting louder and more vicious (“Did you see who she was talking to? What a slut! Did you hear what happened with her boyfriend? Oh MY GOD!).
You would think this would die out after high school but I assure you…it does not. (PTO Mom to other PTO Mom: “Stay away from Jane. I heard she gave her kids non-organic baby food…”)
I’m Not a Saint
Let’s face it. We are ALL guilty of gossiping. Why do we have this uncontrollable urge to share things that may not be any of our business? Well, for starters, it’s fun and helps us feel like we’re fitting in. After all, there’s no greater bond than two people who “hate” the same co-worker.
And who doesn’t love a bit of scandal to make our own lives seem better? If she’s getting a divorce because she caught her husband cheating with her cross dressing hair dresser, our problems pale in comparison. And if you’re the one with the juicy tidbit, you think that elevates you in other’s eyes or that it makes people like you. When you know something they don’t know, it makes you the star of the show. Or at least it feels like that.
If We All Do It, Is It So Bad???
There are studies out there that say some gossiping is healthy and helps establish a hierarchy of society and blah, blah, blah. Some gossiping is meant to serve as a warning and helps people in the long run and more yada, yada, yada.
Yet, when asked, people tend to view “gossipers” negatively. After all, setting rumor mills alight all over town doesn’t exactly bode well for projecting positivity into the universe. It makes one look like nothing more than a school yard bully, looking to cut down someone else.
It’s not as helpful as we pretend it is meant to be. Let’s be honest, most gossip is simply self-serving. It makes us feel better about ourselves in some way.
The Negative Consequences
What happens when the rumor that we’re spreading isn’t true? We look like idiots for telling lies. Not to mention, we appear to be catty and mean. We may have unnecessarily hurt someone else for no reason other than to feel better about ourselves.
I was at a meeting the other day and all of a sudden, people started ripping on other people that weren’t in the room. And I was no exception. Before long we were all laughing and joking and having a good time. At someone else’s expense. Don’t get me wrong…most likely these people would never know what we were saying, but still, I couldn’t help but think…
What Are We Doing????
As adults, we tell the kids at school that they shouldn’t talk about each other behind their backs and then we literally turn around and talk about other people behind their backs. We tell the kids that are victims of the rumors to ignore it, that the rumor spreaders are only doing it because they feel insecure and want to fit in by hurting someone else.
And then we turn around and spread a vicious rumor about our acquaintance’s lover that she’s meeting in an alley when she’s allegedly at the gym. What happened to practice what you preach?
I, for one, have decided that I’m not going to be a part of gossiping from this point on. I’m going to set a good example.
I’m Not Trying to Be a Goody-Two Shoes
I know I sound like I’m being all preachy and I’m perfect over here, but I assure you, I’m not. I get it. This one is HARD. If anything, I’m constantly reminded about how this is a PROJECT. It’s been very difficult for me to bite my tongue when rumors are flying (especially when I know something they don’t know). And even since creating this particular precept, I’ve had a very hard time keeping my mouth shut. I want to fit in and not look like the goodie-two shoes who’s not participating in the backbiting and back stabbing. Who doesn’t want to be liked?
But as a person who has been the recipient of rumors in my life, I know how hurtful they are (and it makes no difference whether they’re true or not). I think in the long run, the less gossiping I do, the more well liked I will actually be. If people hear me gossip, unconsciously they know at some point in time that I might possibly start talking about them. I’m going to be viewed as less trustworthy. I’m going to be seen as negative.
How Can I Do This?
So how am I breaking the cycle (for myself)? Well, the most effective thing for me has been to literally think before I speak. I’m an infamous emotional speaker—I blurt out what’s on my mind all the time. So when someone says to me, “Did you hear what happened to so and so?” my immediate response is to either share what I know happened to so and so, or lean in on my hands and say “No! What? Tell me!”.
Thinking about what I’m going to say before speaking when someone presents me with a juicy nugget like that has proved a challenge, but I’ve been trying to smile politely and tell the person “No, I haven’t heard.” and change the subject. This sends the message that I’m not open to hearing about it. If they insist on telling me, I listen, but once again, I try to resist the urge to add input.
It. Is. Very. Difficult.
Still Not a Saint…
Because it’s so difficult, I’ve had to bend the rules a bit. Since some gossip has been deemed as helpful, I’ve listened to it and said things like, “Wow, that’s a shame”, “Yikes, that nose job must hurt” or “It must be difficult for her to have to share bras with her husband.” just to let the gossiper know that I’m not interested in bashing anyone, even though I will listen the information they want to share.
And sometimes FACTS are helpful (hence the “good” gossip). If my son’s classmate got busted for selling weed out of his locker, it’s good to know that for future reference when my son brings that kid to hang out at our house. Likewise, if my neighbor is being investigated for embezzling PTO funds, I know I should be careful with my money around her.
This is Going to Be a “One Day at a Time” Sort of Project
Like I said, I’m a work in progress. Not every one of my flaws can be eradicated in a month. Many of them are deeply ingrained. This is going to be a lifetime process—a constant battle. I just want to be a better me than I was yesterday.
And by the way, I’m not going to condemn someone for gossiping—it’s a challenge to stop. I’m not even saying you should stop. You gotta do whatever works for you. This is my project…this is one of the things I’m trying to change about me. I’m just trying not to be a wash woman…spread the word.