November 26, 2016

How to Get Out of Gossip

Did you know that women speak an average of 20,000 words a day? That doesn’t really surprise me; in fact, my daily average is probably double that! But to put it in perspective, men speak an average of 7,000 words...

how to get out of gossip

Did you know that women speak an average of 20,000 words a day? That doesn’t really surprise me; in fact, my daily average is probably double that! But to put it in perspective, men speak an average of 7,000 words each day. So it’s pretty clear that as women, we connect by communicating.

But we can probably admit that all of that “communicating” isn’t always positive. Sometimes it’s concern, sometimes it’s judgement, and sometimes it’s just straight up gossip. Often we don’t even realize we are doing it. A good reminder is how Dave Ramsey defines gossip. He says, “Gossip is saying anything negative about another person to someone who can’t do anything about it.”

Of course we don’t set out to talk badly about someone else (I hope!). It can start out by expressing “concern” about the way someone else is living their life, or hearing about someone else’s hardship.

“Did you hear that Susie quit her job?”

“No, really?”

“Yup, and apparently she doesn’t even have another one lined up. I don’t know how she expects to pay her bills . . . ”

Trust me, I’m as guilty of this as anyone else. It feels like we’re connecting over some juicy news and sharing secrets, but friends, I’m going to call it what it is: gossip. Gossip is not only hurting our relationships but it’s damaging our own credibility, trustworthiness and reputation.

The other day I ran into an old friend at the grocery store. After playing catch-up on each other’s lives, she changed the topic to another one of our mutual friends and said, “Can you believe so-and-so just bought that expensive, new high-rise condo downtown? I saw on Zillow where it was sold for $500,000! And it doesn’t seem very conducive to raising that new baby. I mean how are they even going to let the dog out to pee?”

It would be so easy to join in on the gossip, but Proverbs 16:28 says that “gossip separates close friends.” Even if it makes us feel closer in the moment, we are actually undermining relationships. We damage our relationships with the person we gossip about AND the person we gossip with. As Dave Ramsey says in EntreLeadership, “Everyone knows inherently they can’t trust a gossip.”

In that moment at the store, I was very intentional about not fueling the fire. Want to know my secret for nipping it in the bud? Silence. I just stood there with a smile and waited for her to stop talking, because what I’ve learned through the years is that gossip is a two-way street.

When a gossiper puts it out there and waits for you to take the bait, they expect a certain reaction. When you don’t give it to them, they’ll feel embarrassed and move on. She even backpedaled: “Well, I guess it’s what they’ve wanted for a while now. Good for them that they can afford to do that . . . ”

Drama needs an audience. If you don’t participate, the drama will die.

It’s easier than you think to tap out of the gossip ping-pong game. I didn’t have to call her out for gossiping—all I had to do was choose not to participate. So the next time a friend starts going down that road of expressing “concern” over how someone spent her money, parented her child, or styled her hair, don’t join in. Instead, you can smile and let the silence hang for a minute. You’ll not only keep your reputation in tact, but you’ll be challenging the other person to a higher standard without saying a word.

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  • JoAnna Woods says:

    Love this come back. Gonna use it. I totally hate gossip and sometimes get so discourage at the person twice I’ve blow up and called coworkers out on it and lost their friendship and one was a supervisor but wish I’d taken a different approach. Gonna try your way. But think the word got out about my attitude about gossip because I’ve noticed ppl guard their words with me as if they are gonna get their hands smacked lol. Oh well lol

  • RevBarbK says:

    “Be still and know that I am God.” Psalm 46:10. What a beautiful way to live out that command, Christy! You were still, and trusted God to handle your friend’s words. And God did. Thanks for your example to me today.

  • Bella says:

    People will say, pray for so and so, she’s struggling in her marriage! I heard her husband cheated on her! We need to pray! Then those people go and tell more people, etc!
    It’s awful how gossip spreads!
    If you don’t have permission from that person to share that info, Don’t repeat it!
    Keep it to yourself and pray faithfully for her! It’s her information to tell, not ours!

    • Elaine Danan says:

      And I thot that was the going to be the answer! “Let’s pray!” As you take their hands.
      Telling stuff to someone who can’t do anything about it? I can always do something about it. Pray.

  • MS Barb says:

    Good article! I love your advice to just be silent! Several years ago, I was attending Weight Watchers and a lady at church, in front of some other ladies, asked what I weighed now…I stood there & waited…soon the conversation picked up again, & it was NOT about weight loss!

  • Silvia says:

    I tend to isolate myself from people who gossip. I become paranoid, wondering what they can be saying about me. Next time I’ll just wait and smile. Good tip. Thanks, Christy.

  • Becky says:

    I’ve been doing this for years. I have a friend that used to gossip, she got used to me ‘going away’ when she started in, and she’d say “We lost Becky”. I would stop paying attention to the conversation, even though I’d still be looking on, but she could tell.
    Nothing good ever comes of judging another, or pretending we know what’s going on in someone’s life. Thank you for putting it out there 🙂

  • Jennifer says:

    So… the way to stop someone from being disrespectful, judgmental and hurtful to an absent third party is to do something that is hostile, disrespectful and judgmental to them? Wow… I could not possibly disagree with this advice more strongly. As Christians, we are called to AVOID this kind of behavior, because even the person who is indulging in juicy gossip is God’s child, and deserves treated with no less respect or consideration than anyone else.

    I strongly suggest setting aside the chilly silence in favor of something more like, “Yeah, I see what you mean.. But I am sure so-and-so has her family’s best interests at heart. Maybe we should call her and ask if she needs help doing ?” That kind of response not only puts the kebosh on the snarking, it also avoids damaging your relationship with your gossiping friend while at the same time turning the conversation toward a more positive, beneficial track. Habitual gossipers looking for validation from you in the form of snarky collusion will realize quickly that that’s just not what you’re about, and isn’t that the better message to send to those around you?

  • Teresa says:

    Excellent option. Some of my coworkers need to read and try this. Maybe then we could all just get along. I already am an outcast because I call people out when they stir the pot.

  • Amy says:

    I have been guilty of gossip and I can say it has usually been because I didn’t know what to say to someone griping about someone else. So moving forward I give myself permission to stay silent. I have also been the victim of gossip. And the only way to defend myself was to tell everyone who had heard the gossip what really happened. But I knew that would make me just as bad. So I said nothing and I realized that those who knew me already would know it wasn’t true and those who believed didn’t know me well enough to be called friends anyway. And while it was really hard it has taught me to never trust gossip.

  • Holly Richardson says:

    I recently started this practice at work. I have noticed people don’t engage me in conversation as much, but I also feel they have noticed I will no longer engage in that activity.
    Thanks for the encouragement!

  • AnnMarie says:

    It’s all fine and dandy until you live with inlaw family who you thought liked you and you catch over and over backstabbing you when your not home then your discussing with your other family members what the steps should be to get them out of your home ..depends on the situation is what I believe

  • Mattie says:

    Gossip does hurt-especially when it come she from people you least expect it. At work, one of my co-workers expressed to me that my boss and his mother (both owners of the place) were gossiping and talking about me behind my back. I was completely devastated and went home crying after she told me. The way they have been with me the years I’ve known them, I wold have never imagined this to be true. I’m still at this workplace and chose to forgive and ignore it. Til this day, they still don’t know about my co-worker letting me know…but now as time I see passing, I’m questioning if I should continue working there. I’m in a difficult spot because if I confront them I would be jeapordizing my co-workers status.

  • joanna maria says:

    Love this article. This is exactly how I try to react to gossip. All this time, I thought maybe it was rude. All along I was, “challenging someone to a higher standard.”

  • Serenity says:

    I appreciate this so, so much. This has been a lesson hard learned and well worth it. The way to stop gossip is to be the place where the gossip stops. Thanks for this!

  • Teresa says:

    Thank you for this. Now I feel better about what I have been doing. Silence has been my reply for awhile now at work. Actually, I often have to walk away. Recently I let a few people know why they would be met with silence/walking away since the situation was getting so negative that it was becoming very unhealthy for all. I am by no means perfect, but I am determined not to participate in the “poisoning of the well”.