By Alease Ferguson, Ph.D., LPCC
“Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers.”
–Ephesians 4:29, the King James Version (KJV) by Relevance.
Old Folks Wisdom
Growing up my mother always told me to 1) “watch your words and if you cannot say anything good, don’t say anything at all;” and 2) remember that “A dog who brings a bone, will carry a bone.” This phrase means that people who gossip are also indiscriminately engaging in:
- Spewing libel and slander,
- Spreading lies and rumors, and
- Telling the business of others
Gossipers are bullies who are never above lying to make themselves seemingly look bigger, better and much more critical. Because they are always on the prowl looking for dirt to dig up, it is also advisable to never reveal too much about your personal life or your loved ones. Beware not to risk you or your loved one’s rights to privacy.
Gossiping is a common habit in everyday community life and the world of work. Initially, people are intrigued by gossip. Often both the gossiper and the receivers are fascinated by it. They may also feel empowered because they know something about you, the target, or another that should be left private.
If you have the habit of gossiping, you may have a self-esteem problem that causes you to seek power over others rather than “mutuality” and power with others. Gossiping can feel like a drug for people who cannot fend off its temptation. Habitual gossipers will tell you it is so compelling that you can barely stop yourself. Because the habit pattern is so entrenched, a gossiper can lack the social-emotional control to stop circulating rumors either directly or on the sly. They do it by either making short comments here and there or in rants about someone’s private business or their annoying habits. Unfortunately, it is a nasty habit to acquire and even harder to shake once the pattern takes root. Adults who engage in gossip seldom realize that it is a childish and unsavory habit, and it reflects poor taste.
Sooner or later, it gets back to the offender that others see their behavior as uncivil and anti-social because gossip is vengeful, hurtful and detrimental to everyone involved. Here are a few factors to keep in mind the next time you have the urge to badmouth someone; consider the consequences:
- Your poor manners say more about you than the person that you are badmouthing.
- In time those around you will come to view gossipers as petty, untrustworthy, and worth avoiding, and
- Psychologically unsafe and toxic
The Menacing Aspects of Gossiping
In the end, every one of us is responsible for the words that we speak. If you are a serial gossiper, you likely get a sense of reward from offending and hurting others. Beware that gossiping can also lead to “gang stalking,” where whole groups of family, friends, co-workers, or colleagues begin to reject or mistreat the target. Being the butt of gossip is painful. It can open up deep wounds and memories of past life abuses and betrayals by the significant people in our lives. Though what is said is of no merit, it is that tinge of malice and spite that makes gossip feel threatening and harmful.
Use Gossip to Grow Up & Glow Up
If you have a brush with a vicious gossiper, you have an important growth opportunity ahead. Though we cannot control what others choose to say about us, we can take charge of our emotions. As unpleasant as it is, there is an upside to having people gossip about you. Believe it or not, you can grow up and glow up beyond it. One plus is that it allows you to take an accurate inventory of your associates. It lets you know who in your environment is loyal, kindly, and genuine versus who is a snake in the grass lying in wait. Since haters are hovering around, you can inoculate yourself from these toxic people by:
- Committing to loving yourself more,
- Knowing who you are, and
- Accepting the truth of your goodness and just how fabulous you are!
Initially, it is OK to allow yourself to feel the hurt to gain an understanding of what just happened. It is a vital growth opportunity. A watchword for all of us is to think before we speak, and ask, what are my motives? What would I like to impart to others? Are my statements well-intentioned?