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“Do I have a story for you!”

Titillating, isn’t it? However, unless the story is of the “once upon a time” variety, those words never lead to anything good. What is it about human nature that makes us love gossip?

Teenagers infiltrated my gym recently. As I listened to the girls gossip about who wasn’t invited to what party, I couldn’t help but smile, but it wasn’t with any sense of superiority. With age may come wisdom, but in this case, experience tells me that poison tongues don’t stop wagging just because you get older. If anything, the gossip gets worse because the stakes are higher.

You can’t escape it. The workplace is rampant with it. Magazines are filled with it. Want a little exercise? If you join a team sport, you can expect to hear plenty. I once left a recreational soccer league because of the nasty gossip that took place over beers after the game…if you weren’t able to make it to the bar, rest assured that you were the evening’s topic of conversation. And at least one woman quit my former sponge hockey team due to “all that drama”.

I’ve had to cut an entire group of friends out of my life because their idea of fun was seeing how many knives they could stick in each other’s backs. These are thirty and forty-something professionals who are still wagging their tongues about who isn’t invited to what party. Or who doesn’t like so-and-so. Or who cheated on so-and-so. It was too much for me. I bowed out, which gave them new reasons to talk…about me.

I’ve heard many explanations for why we gossip. Some say it’s the hobby of the insecure, but if that’s the case, there’s a lot of insecure people running around. Some say it happens when people have nothing better to do, but surely most things are better than spreading rumors and vitriol. It can be a way of bonding with others, but isn’t there another way to connect with people? Isn’t life hard enough without spreading poison?

I’m far from perfect, but I try my hardest to live by the adage “if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all”. If I have a problem with you, I’ll tell you in the kindest way I can. (Or if I can’t tell you, The Boy may hear of it, but he’ll take that stuff with him to the grave.) And if you entrust me with a secret, consider it kept.

For there’s one thing I’ve learned about gossips. If they’re gossiping to you, they’re also gossiping about you.

You can count on that.

How about you, dear readers? Ever regret gossiping? Or have you been a victim yourself? Rant away!

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  1. Mystic_Mom

    I tend to be a private person and have found that when I have opened up to new women friends it will end up having two outcomes – we have each other’s back against the ‘gossip girls’ or I end up finding out via the ‘grape vine’ that I’ve been maligned, shanked and gossiped about.

    I do my best not to gossip, and vent to only a few (fewer now) friends. I won’t gossip – have been told I’m not a good co-worker because of that. I never hear the ‘good stuff’ because I have none to dish out.

    Gossip is a shallow puddle for those who don’t want to put the work into real friendships of depth – that’s my take on it. Much easier to fill hours with mindless cruelty and chatter instead of really building a relationship.

    Men and women both, do a disservice to children by teaching them to gossip. The only difference between when I was younger and now is that the gossip when I was younger was a bullying kind and now it is a more advanced form of poison that keeps people in the shallow puddles of communication and never lets them try to swim in the depths of a real friendship or relationship.

    I know for certain that when someone is gossiped about to me I stick up for those who are not there. Everyone should have a friend they can rant or vent to safely and not have the conversation used against them. Everyone should have at least one friend they know won’t stab them or slice them up to others.

    My simple rule is I won’t say something to a person about another person that I wouldn’t say with all parties present. Keeps thing simple – if I won’t say it TO Holli (for example) then I won’t say it ABOUT Holli when she isn’t there.

    People tend to choose the easy roads – and those are the cruel ones where self is served first. I’ll never be your ‘gossip’ girl but I’ll for sure have a friend’s back or be there to help them if they needed it.

    Thanks for the great post Holli, and you did say ‘rant away’ so I took you at your word!

  2. trin

    I totally agree with mystic mom, if you can’t say it in front of the person don’t say it at all, this is something I try and teach my girls , at 10 the oldest is in prime gossip territory so I try and always make her think how she would feel if someone said the same thing about her , i’ve also given her my ear as a safe person to vent to because we all need to vent sometimes.

  3. Kim

    Nice job mystic Mom. Well said and nothing to be added.

    I happen to share an office with 5 people. We hear each other’s phone conversations. The walls are so thin, we can hear through the walls to other offices. One of my office mates is “the boss” right now and I hear lots of “things.” At times I hear things that I consider to be rediculous requests and behaviour from my co workers. I hear things about students. I also hear things that are coming up but aren’t to be shared yet. I have no desire to share or repeat any of this. Mostly because I do not care.

    I got pulled into my boss’s office one day and told there was talk going on about me. It’s one thing to suspect it is happening. It’s another thing to find out it is true. My boss had the best intentions. And I’m pretty sure I know where this talk originated and that person I keep a safe distance from.

    I’m quite happy to gossip about me though. I have nothing to hide.

  4. kungfusinger

    Ummm… I think I will refrain from gossiping-I mean “Ranting”-today.

  5. Lisa

    I hear you with this quote: “I’m far from perfect, but I try my hardest to live by the adage “if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all”.”

    I can’t say that I never gossip (“let he who is without sin, cast the first stone”), and the times that I have, I end up thinking about how I felt when it was me being talked about. I do know what it is like, and it is hurtful, especially coming from someone you thought was a friend. The trust that you had can never be built back up to that same level again. Sobering to say the least…

  6. kungfusinger

    @lisa: That is how I feel. There are times that I just want to let out my frustrations about something that happened. I want to hammer on the person who wronged me. There are times that I slip up and I do. I always feel like a heel after, and I usually try to make amends one way or another, but it is mostly too little too late.

    My tongue in cheek post above was ilustrating how when I rant, usually I end up saying something about someone that I regret later.

  7. Kim

    Ok, I need to weigh in here again and say that “gossiping” and venting or talking to someone you trust about a negative or hurtful interaction you had with someone in my opinion are two very different things.

    Gossiping is about being snide and malicious to another human hoping to turn everyone else against her/him or, even worse, to gain attention on, or power for, yourself at the expense of another. Venting is about gaining guidance and understanding from someone who may have been there before or may be objective.

    The problem is that you can’t always tell for sure who is safe to vent to and who is going to turn around and repeat what you said to the next willing ear. That’s where the grey zone lies isn’t it? I tend to have pretty good gut instincts about people but I’m not always right and I have screwed up in the past and got bit in the ass for it.

  8. Story Teller

    Wow, thanks for your comments, everyone. Unfortunately, most women have been the victim of hurtful gossip at one time or another. Men gossip, too, but they tend not to be as malicious.

    @ MM – What a beautiful post! I honestly can’t imagine anyone spreading negativity about you. You’re such an honest, caring person–you rescue animals and fight fires, for heaven’s sake! Maybe it’s jealousy of the “no one can possibly be that good” variety. Try not to let it get you down. You’re a beautiful person, and the people who count will figure that out and treat you accordingly.

    @ Kim – the same thing happened to me in both corporate environments. As a communications person, I do my job best if I’m *not* sitting at my desk all day. The women I’ve worked with have never understood that. Why does Holli get to be away when I have to be stuck at my desk? And so the gossip starts. I’m not sure if your boss is male, but both of mine were, and men tend to be clueless about this type of thing. They assume that if someone complains to the boss, it must be legitimate. Unfortunately, it’s often sour grapes and nothing more.

    @ Lisa – thanks for the insight. I think everyone has said something they regret at one time or another, but it takes guts to own up to it. Bravo!

    @ kungfusinger – the safest person to vent to in those instances is your husband. 🙂

    @ Kim – I agree, although venting can have a negative energy all its own. It needs to be capped after a certain amount of time, I find. A close friend of mine and I were once both friendly with a girl who had an eating disorder. It became a regular topic of conversation between us when this girl wasn’t around. We felt guilty, but kept saying we just wanted to figure out how to help her. Right…what we were doing was venting about how draining and needy this girl was. We became our own support group. Now, neither of us felt anything but compassion (and good-hearted annoyance, occasionally) towards this girl, and I can trust my friend with my life, so it worked out okay. But still, I never felt good knowing that the girl wouldn’t have appreciated our conversations. And if my friend had been a different kind of person–the “guess what Holli said about YOU” variety, it would have been a huge mess.

    You’re right – you do have to be very careful who you vent to.

  9. Andrea N.

    Glad you wrote about this important topic. Once I was the subject of gossip at work and I said to the gals…”If your lives are so boring you must talk about mine…go ahead”. They shut up pretty quickly…lol

  10. Story Teller

    Great comeback, Andrea! It’s so true…sad, really, how some people have nothing better to do.


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