While reading ‘The Happiness Project’ written by Gretchen Rubin, one part stood out to me and stuck in my head. It’s something I have always been firm on, but have not completely obliged to in the past couple of years.
Gretchen talks about gossiping in her book. She not only tells us how it plays a role in social circles and gatherings and how fun it is, but also about what we would usually refer to as gossip. I found it very interesting that she elaborates on what she views as gossip, and since I agree with her, I thought I’d share a few snippets here.
Even expressions of concern can be tricked-up forms of gossip: “I’m really worried about her, she seems down, do you think she’s having trouble at work?” That’s gossip.
Now, I know a lot of people do not view this as gossip. You might say it’s concern for the third person…I understand that viewpoint. But I think it’s gossip because if there was concern the person who’s the subject would be contacted and asked if she was okay. It wouldn’t be a topic of discussion to start conversation with someone else.
Even harder, I wanted to stop listening to gossip.
This is hard. Not gossiping or talking about others is the easier part. Not listening… that would be difficult because you tend to not want to offend the person who’s speaking (gossiping) by telling them to stop. My trick is to change the topic, but it doesn’t always work.
I was at a meeting when someone mentioned of mutual acquaintances, “I heard that their marriage was in trouble.”
“I hadn’t heard that,” someone replied. So fill us in! was the implication of her tone.
“Oh, I don’t think that’s true,” I said dismissively. Let’s not talk about that was the implication of my tone. I’m embarrassed to admit how hard it was for me to resist this conversation. I love a rousing analysis of the dynamics of other people’s marriages.
What I didn’t think was gossip was when I discussed how I felt about people when I had a boyfriend. I used to tell him everything and so I rationalized it in this way that it’s just part of everything else that I tell him. What I didn’t consciously realize was that I was playing a role in forming his opinions and giving him preconceived notions about that person, which is really neither fair nor healthy. Gretchen also talks about this in her book:
Jamie and I went to a dinner party, and I sat next to someone whom I found insufferable. I did a fairly good job of being friendly during dinner, but when we got home and Jamie said, “Jim’s a nice guy, isn’t he?” I answered, “you didn’t spend any time with him. I think he’s insufferable, and I could barely stand talking to him.” I immediately felt terrible for saying something mean about someone who seemed like a nice enough guy (even though insufferable). Also, if Jamie liked someone, I shouldn’t poison his mind with criticisms. I tried to convince myself that there was a spousal privilege for gossip that would permit me to gossip freely with Jamie, but I concluded that though it’s better to gossip only to Jamie, it’s still better to avoid gossip altogether.
Even though mostly I would just relate what the other person said or did, and not say mean things about the other person straight out, I think it still sort of comes into the category of gossiping unless there’s a specific important reason to tell your spouse in case of deceit or cheating or such instances.
This is what I really found interesting:
I learned another reason not to say critical things about other people: “spontaneous trait transference”. Studies show that because of this psychological phenomenon, people unintentionally transfer to me the traits I ascribe to other people. What I say about other people sticks to me – even when I talk to someone who already knows me. So I do well to say only good things.
And that, I find scary. In addition to all the negative traits I already have, I would add even more just by talking about it and I do not want that!
Even saying, “do you know that she gossips a lot?” would be me gossiping!
No gossiping means no bad feelings after having said something and no guilt on meeting the person just gossiped about.
Avoiding gossiping might sometimes be tricky, but so worth it.