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Saturday, September 11, 2010

How to Deal With the Negative Effects of Gossip

The vast amount of magazines detailing the lives and loves of stars and celebrities shows that many of us love gossip. We love to hear and read about other people, especially if it involves an actor or actress' body size or love affair. And this hunger for gossip seems to be increasing.
But very few of us stop to think about the negative effects of gossip. When it concerns celebrities, it is often viewed as entertainment, simply a part of show business that is accessible to everyone, but how would you feel if YOU were the subject of gossip. You probably have been gossiped about in the past by people who know you and it is likely you have gossiped too. Gossip seems to be a pass time that appeals to most people - it can be a way of bonding with others, allying and forming friendships, gaining attention and amusing ourselves at another's expense. Many will argue that everyone gossips and that gossip is harmless. But the latter is far from true.
Gossip is often a sure fire way to damage a relationship. When you talk about someone behind their back relaying bad news or criticisms to someone else, you are creating negativity in that relationship. Most gossip comes from fear, anger or jealousy and the perpetrator is often seeking confirmation of their opinion when they gossip. They want others' agreement and validation. They want to hear other people agree with their gripes and have them add to the gossip.
The negative effects of gossip are pretty well known. We all know it can damage reputations and cause a lot of hurt, but it doesn't stop us from doing it. This is partly because gossiping is so easy to do and offers instant, but temporary gratification to the gossiper. It relieves anger they cannot express in any other way about the person they are gossiping about. Gossiping is the coward's way of expressing anger and it's also a sign that the gossiper really doesn't have enough going on in their own lives! What better way to entertain ourselves than gossip about others! Yet this tactic often backfires, especially if the gossip gets back to the person gossiped about in the first place.
Also, the gossiper is likely, in time, to feel bad about themselves. Remember that gossip offers only temporary gratification. It is not long before the gossiper begins to feel the negative effect on their self esteem. The effort spent gossiping would be put to better use trying to build up their confidence and self esteem in constructive ways.
So how do we deal with gossip in general and the negative effects of gossip? Well, firstly you need to be prepared to not participate in gossip in any shape or form. This means not being the first person to introduce a new gossip topic and it also means not adding fuel to the fire by joining in on any gossip you hear. This can be hard as we are surrounded by lots of gossip, but take one day at a time and soon it will become easier.
Make it clear to others that you will not participate in gossip at all and that you don't want to listen to any gossip. This can be scary as gossip is often a (unhealthy) way of bonding friendships and groups. Be courageous and stand your ground. Don't be a willing participant - walk away from the gossiper if needs be. Of course, there is a chance that they might begin to gossip about you as a result, but by simply being aware that this behaviour reflects negatively on them and not you will keep you motivated.
If for some reason you cannot detach yourself from a gossiper at that exact moment, make a point of trying to defend the person they are gossiping about by throwing in a question or comment that turns the gossip on its head. Gossipers needs supportive listeners and are unlikely to continue if their gossip and point of view is being challenged.