Several years ago I made a vow to give up gossiping and doing so has made me realize how dangerous it is, truly dangerous.
It's so easy to get caught in an enticing yet unkind conversation about someone else. But if you've ever been the target of gossip, as I have been, you know how painful it is. No matter how we excuse it, talking behind another's back is a harmful habit. My definition of gossip is simple:
Anything you wouldn't say to
the person you're talking about
The joke is that a secret is something you tell only one person at a time, but the result is a rumor that spreads like wildfire and alters how another person is perceived. Haven't we all heard tittle-tattle and thought, Who knew? I had no idea! Beatle George Harrison said it memorably ~
Gossip is the Devil's radio.
I know you don't want to be known as a gossip, but it can be so tempting. So here are three reasons to motivate us to kick the habit and make a more positive impact on those around us.
1. Gossip kills organizations. Whether it's a global business, a school, a church, or a small partnership, talking behind others' backs is death to the office. Fueling a negative perception about the boss, a direct report, or even a client saps positive energy from all concerned and diminishes the success of the organization.
In his Forbes magazine article Mike Myatt calls it the fastest way to kill corporate culture: "The emotional distress and political discord associated with gossip undermines workplace performance, and can be nothing short of disastrous."
2. Gossip kills families. Being part of a strong and loving family is our greatest blessing, one that creates a safe and secure place for everyone fortunate enough to be part of it. Yet when an estrangement occurs, members take sides, and attention is pulled away from taking care of one another and doing our best to contribute to this gift.
My family is a large and loving one, but it too has fallen into this trap. Someone makes a mistake, the finger pointing begins, and the altered perception of this person grows until it's no longer just gossip but a reason to pull back from the greater family. Fortunately our grandparents and parents were extraordinary models for us, so time goes by, wounds are healed, and we move on together.
Gossip kills relationships. Women sitting around complaining about their husbands, men sharing jokes about wives, friends gossiping about the one who isn't there. We might as well shoot ourselves in the foot, as the saying goes.
Only once in our 35-year marriage did we gossip about one another, and that was our darkest time. Fortunately we each realized the stories were of our own creation, and we let go of self-fulfilling prophecies that were killing the loving relationship we'd enjoyed for so long.
This habit is indeed the most dangerous one, and the cost is beyond measure. If you're serious about breaking it, ask yourself, What can I do to break this habit?In addition, here are solutions that are working for me.
1. Become aware of the pain I have caused others with my gossip.
2. Let go of my stories about others, one by one, until they're all gone.
3. Be present and positive.
In the words of Socrates:
Strong minds discuss ideas, average minds
discuss events, weak minds discuss people.
I'd love to hear about your plans to break this habit or what's working for you. Either leave a comment by scrolling to the bottom of this page or write to me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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