Gossiping can suck the zest out of your spirit. Gossip is mean-spirited and little-minded; its goal is to make the gossipers feel superior to the gossiped-about. It is seductive, addictive and a way of bonding with other gossipers, all while pulling you down to the lowest spiritual common denominator. Gently observe your interactions with others, and catch yourself if you feel you are getting sucked into gossip.
Let’s define what gossip is and is not. Gossip is judgmental chit-chat about another person or group. It is conversation that lacks compassion for the other party, and sets up an "us versus them" mentality. It pits one viewpoint against another, with that of the gossipers as better than the others. Gossip tends to make the gossipers feel better by stroking their egos. It severs the gossiper’s connection to their true essence, which is love. Gossip sounds like this: "I can’t believe our neighbors put out those hideous pink flamingo sculptures in their front yard! It looks so trashy! They even have wings that rotate in the wind and make the worst noise. What horrid taste! Can you believe it?"
Observations, on the other hand, are more neutral statements of how you see a situation or a person. We are presented with much diversity in our world and our experiences, and our job is to decide what experiences, attitudes, perceptions and people we want to welcome into our lives. We must discern which path will be ours. Observations can include a discernment statement, as in, "Our neighbors put up pink flamingos in their front yard. That’s not my style, so I won’t be doing the same." The observation includes an implicit respect for the other person’s tastes or decisions, acknowledging that we all have our foibles.
So what can you do when other people are trying to suck you into a gossip session? Here are some suggestions:
- Be aware. In order to do anything, you have to be aware of what’s going on. Gossip has a different energy from observations, so start observing your feelings and your spirit as you converse with others. Try to discern whether the conversation has the heavy, judgmental feel of gossip or is still in the energy range of non-judgmental observations. Be gentle with yourself - we all gossip from time to time, but the first step to a gossip-free, more spirit-filled life is to be aware of when it happens.
- Be silent. I have a friend who is my personal gossip police, even though she doesn’t know it. Every time I steer our conversation toward even a mildly gossipy statement, she gives me a look (that I now recognize) and says nothing. I know I need to shut up - fast - before I jump over the precipice into that nasty river of hatefulness and judgment. Practice being silent - it can be highly effective with people who are sensitive to the ill effects of gossip.
- Use shock and awe statements. I remember being a software support representative in San Francisco in the mid-1980’s - not so long after the Summer of Love and its infamy. I was on the phone with a customer who asked where we were located. When I told him our office was in San Francisco, he spewed, "Oh yeah, the city of fruits and nuts!" Rather than follow his lead, I replied with a shock and awe statement that shut him up, "Yes, San Franciscans accepts everyone’s eccentricities, including mine."
- Refuse to engage. This is highly effective. It’s like a martial art - you deflect the attack and turn the energy away from danger. You do this in conversation either by changing the subject or replying to a judgmental statement with a neutral observation.
Be your own gossip police and put a stop to gossip’s negative energy in your life!