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Gossip isn’t good for you, but you already know that.

Loosely defined, gossip is talking about someone from your family, work, church, or community behind their back, and typically in a way, you would not want them to overhear. Gossip is toxic, low vibrational behavior that never leaves you feeling good, so why do it? It’s a classic human error. Wasting our precious energy, boosting the signal of things we find distasteful, increasing behaviors that make us feel hostile, tired, and sad. 

That’s the nature of gossip. It leaves you feeling icky. I’m thinking about this after reaching out to a former colleague I gossiped about many years ago. As the new year began, I wanted to atone for any lingering wrongs, and this was one that still felt rotten to me. Almost a decade ago, I worked on a desktop publishing team. Through a series of events I no longer recall, the supervisor became the subject of the team’s malicious morning gossip. It didn’t go on for years, only a couple of months, and I did attempt to resolve the problems with HR, but in the interim, gossiping about the issues seemed to make the team feel better. Except, it didn’t. This post is my own investigation into why gossip feels so icky and yet, is so hard to stop.

Gossip often feels like the only recourse for those with no power, or insufficient power to enact change in a situation. You don’t like a situation, but instead of rising, you take the temporary false sense of empowerment from gossiping and sink deeper in. When you talk shit, you bring that same ugly, dense, destructive energy into your own life. You make a home for something rotten, which makes you feel lousy. You may feel you have connected to someone else suffering under the same oppression. Still, the connection is short-lived and corrupt because when you have gossiped with someone about another person, they will never really trust you, and you will never really trust them. One absolute truth about gossip, it’s an integrity killer. 

Gossiping seems to relieve bad feelings, but in reality, it intensifies them. At the same time, it brings other bad feelings like shame and remorse into your life. Think about it. Have you ever felt really good for a prolonged period after gossiping? At best, you may have had temporary relief from an oppressive situation, but afterward, you feel even worse. Validation is one seemingly-pleasing outcome of gossip that often rots on the vine once you’re alone. After gossip, you wind up with a massive emotional hangover, like you downed a whole bottle of chardonnay by yourself. Often, the reverberations of what was said echo for days or weeks. When you let yourself be ugly, even if no one else recognizes it, you know. Gossip, constructed from secrets, hidden thoughts, ugly talk, and shadow energy, has no light shining through it. 

Words have power. Let me say that one more time. WORDS. HAVE. POWER. Don’t waste your power calling negative energy into your life. Next time you’re tempted to gossip, try something different. 

Flip that script 

Instead of engaging in gossip, focus on things you want in your life. How could the situation change so that you no longer wanted to participate in gossip? Is there anything you can do to make changes? How can you adjust your attitude (since this is all any of us have control over) to improve the situation?

Check-in with yourself

Do you feel superior when you gossip? Like many other negative behaviors and emotions, gossip can give powerful clues about unmet needs and desires. Tune into your feelings. When you gossip, do you get a temporary boost? What need does that fill? Can you meet that need in another way?

Dial direct

Talk to the person you’ve been gossiping about, work to resolve the issues you’re having. Fear and laziness are the two tendencies most often responsible for keeping us from discussing issues directly with the object of gossip. It can feel more comfortable to complain than to take action to improve things. In a way, it is. However, the long-term damage you do to your integrity is too high a price to pay.  

Try empathy

Take your elders’ advice and put yourself in the shoes of the person you are victimizing with your gossip. Orient yourself to the perspective of the other person and see what happens. If you can’t do that, try to imagine how you’d feel if anyone was saying about you, what you’ve said about the victim. When the excuses rise up, and they will, keep focused on empathy and see if it doesn’t melt the desire to be catty. Empathy will also help you assume the good intentions of the other, as you also tend to have good intentions. 

Every time you gossip, you put something ugly into the world where you could be adding something positive and bright. In this new year, I urge you to use your power to make life kinder, brighter, and lighter by dealing directly with people and situations that bother you. I promise you won’t regret it.