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The Fine Line Between Gossiping and Conversation

It’s that time of the year when we plan on getting together with family and friends to create special memories. But, as much as we want to spend quality time with our loved ones, sometimes we forget the little things that can impact our relationship. So, it’s important to remember a very good etiquette rule: do not Gossip.

As Pope Francis said: “Gossip is a bad thing. In the beginning, it may seem enjoyable and fun, but in the end, it fills our hearts with bitterness and poisons us, too!”

What does gossip mean?

Gossip is defined as “talking about other people in an unkind way.” It can be anything from spreading rumors about someone who doesn’t know you’re talking about them (and therefore won’t be able to defend themselves) or saying something negative about someone’s character or appearance.

Where do you draw the line between harmless talk and harmful gossip?

  • It all comes down to intent: if you intend to hurt someone or spread rumors, you’re probably crossing over into gossip territory.
  • On the other hand, if you want to share information or express an opinion (even if that opinion isn’t flattering), then it’s probably just a conversation.
  • We all have boundaries for what we will and won’t discuss. The important thing is to remember that you are always in control of your words. You can stop at any time, no matter how far along in the conversation you’ve gotten, and say something like, “I don’t feel like talking about that right now,” or “I don’t want to say anything negative.”

What should you do if you hear gossip about someone?

  • First, don’t pass it along. Just because someone told you something doesn’t mean that person intended for you to tell anyone else about it—especially not everyone else at work! If someone tells you something in confidence, keep it private.
  • Second, if someone is trying to get a reaction out of you, ask yourself if there’s anything about their behavior or tone that makes you feel uncomfortable. If so, let them know: ” I’m uncomfortable with how you’re talking about that person right now.” That’s all it takes!
  • Third, if someone starts talking about someone else negatively, change the subject immediately! Don’t engage with them, agree with them, or let them draw you into their negative thoughts and feelings about other people—you’ll end up looking just as bad as they do when all is said and done!

It’s easy to gossip about people—and we all do it sometimes—but it’s important to be conscious of how we talk about others. We want to ensure that our words are kind and helpful. So don’t share secrets just because they’re juicy; share them because they will help people better understand the person in question.

Before you talk about someone, consider these three things: (1) Is what you say true? (2) Are you saying it kindly? (3) Does it serve any useful purpose?

Find out if it’s true

  • Filter what you say before you say it. For example, before saying anything about someone else, please take a moment to think about whether it’s true or false.
  • Also, think about whether or not the other person would want to hear what you have to say.
  • Then ask yourself:
  • Is this something I should say? If so, how can I phrase it, so it doesn’t hurt anybody?
  • If the answer is yes, say it gently and respectfully to everyone involved.

Say it kindly

  • It can be tempting to talk about others to feel better about yourself when you don’t feel great about yourself. But it’s not a good idea to do this because it can hurt someone’s feelings. So if you want others to treat you with kindness and respect, you must treat yourself that way too!
  • Second, think before you speak. It can be tempting to say whatever comes into your head when someone else is talking badly about someone else, but it’s always better if you don’t do that.
  • When you hear bad things about someone and want to tell someone else, ask yourself this question: “If I were that person, would I be upset if I heard what I’m about to say?” If the answer is no, then don’t say it.
  • If yes, find a way to say what you heard about that person and bring it up in conversation without sounding mean or judgmental. Maybe the conversation will guide you to find a way for that person to get help if needed.

Consider utility

  • It’s important to consider these questions before opening your mouth: Is it helpful that you talk about that person? Are you contributing something useful or meaningful? Do they need help with something? Or are you just talking out of spite?
  • If the answer is no, then save it for later. You can always return to your thoughts later when they’ve filtered through your brain for a little while.
  • If the answer is “yes,” proceed with caution! It’s important to consider how much information you’re giving out and what kind of impact it could have on others—especially if you know that person might be hurt by knowing certain things about them!


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