Stop Trusting Gossip: How You Talk About Others When They’re Not In the Room Actually Speaks Volumes

No matter how a person looks, sounds, and behaves, how they speak about another person when they’re not in the room says a lot about their character. Here are 11 reasons to avoid entertaining gossip.

1. Beware of playing the victim —Nietzsche

Gossip often comes with a “but I’m the victim” mentality, which is how a lot of people get away with harming others indirectly, isolating them from their peers, while all the while, garnering favor and sympathy.

When we vilify others, we’re disallowing room for conversation and questioning on the grounds of hearsay. Many people frame gossip in terms of how someone wronged them, but if this were truly the case, there would be a conversation or an action.

Gossip is purely for the sake of garnering sympathy and agreement from those who listen. By zooming in on other people’s flaws and spinning a victim narrative, we manage to subvert others.

It’s easy to isolate and alienate someone when they are portrayed as being the victimizer even if they’ve done nothing to deserve the poor treatment that someone wants to solicit from their peers.

No matter how a person looks, sounds, and behaves, don’t lend legitimacy to gossip or play a role in dehumanizing others. Watch what others do, question their intentions, and pay attention to how someone talks about peers when they’re not in the room. You can learn a lot about their character.

2. Gossip is usually inaccurate.

It rarely includes or reflects the other person’s qualities. When we go off of hearsay, we simplify the conversation and often mischaracterize or label others. When others aren’t around, we have the benefit of exaggeration or changing facts to suit our narrative without being corrected. It’s easy to spread misinformation when the subject of your gossip isn’t around to say otherwise.

3. It’s often an attempt to alienate and isolate people for personal grievances.

We all have flaws, insecurities and things that we struggle with.

Unfortunately, many people who gossip have a hard time regulating their shortcomings and insecurities and when they see someone that reminds them of this, they turn to indirect and relational aggression as a methodical way to visit their anger and frustration onto others. Some people do it outwardly through vicious attacks… While for others, it takes more careful planning, such as trying to create a conflict in which the target of gossip is the villain and deserves to be ostracized.

Most times, gossip is just a conduit for our failure to regulate our deepest insecurities and this manifests itself by targeting and ostracizing others.

People who have good conflict resolution skills turn to directness and avoid miscommunication. This is the best way to be efficient with our time and refocus our main aggression into work, personal goals, family, politics, social justice, health, etc.

4. Listening to gossip is a form of involvement.

If you listen to gossip, you’ll probably be the subject of it one day…if you already haven’t been. You can learn a lot about people by how they treat others. Someone who has a habit of talking about others behind their backs may not be emotionally safe or good at having difficult relational discussions. Don’t expect special treatment from a person who ostracizes and disrespects others. Eventually, this could be you. If it isn’t, you still never know what they say about you to others.

Never believe that you are the exception to how someone treats others. Adoration can change in an instant and even if it doesn’t, you could also be the subject of relational aggression without even realizing it.

5. Gossip usually involves “absolutes”  as opposed to nuance, complexity, and compassion.

Gossip involves a lot of one-dimensional characterizations and black and white thinking.

Life is rarely ever black and white and hardly anything happens in absolutes. There is always more than one side to a story.

Gossip mostly revolves around exaggerated facts that benefit the narrative of the speaker. If the subject of the gossip were to overhear, it’s likely that they would interject, which is why gossip is done when the target is not around.

6. People who want harmony and clarity simply seek it. Gossip is indirect and relational for a reason. 

Without the target, there cannot be any dialectical conversation or reconciliation.

A person who gossips isn’t seeking peace, they’re seeking to elevate themself through ostracization and melodrama. Gossip sews further seeds of divide and does so through manipulation.

Where there is conflict, there is a resolution. Where there is confusion, clarity can be found. People who want peace, seek peace. A person who has nothing to be ashamed of should have no problem being direct with the person they’re gossiping about and clearing things up.

If someone is comfortable expressing aggression to the mutual peers of their target but reluctant to publicly take ownership or be direct, it’s likely that they really aren’t looking for a resolution so much as they are looking for favor among their peers.

7. Those who gossip generally don’t respect discretion or dialectical conversation. Be cautious with whom you share with and what you share. 

Gossip could be an indication of poor boundaries and privacy. When a person uses personal details, flaws, or any such personal information to propel themselves ahead, they generally may not be good at handling discretion. Be cautious with what you share with someone who has a chronic habit of undermining others.

8. It’s a form of relational aggression.

Gossip is a form of bullying that we’ve normalized because it doesn’t involve physical harm. However, it can still be harmful. It can lead to even harsher forms of bullying for people of all ages. It can result in aggression, ostracization and alienation.

9. Gossip could be a preemptive attempt to deny personal accountability for a wrongdoing.  

Check the facts and don’t react. Believing gossip can be especially harmful to people that have done absolutely nothing wrong. By assisting in excluding, alienating, and damaging someone’s relationships–even if you believe it is warranted– you might actually be aiding a classic bully and manipulator in escaping accountability for something they did.

Sometimes, people who cause harm to others’ relationships do so because they aren’t ready to take ownership for something that they did.

They might come up with a story and altered account of events to alienate and villainize those who know what really happened before there’s a chance to be held accountable. In this case, gossip is a preemptive strike. By making others the villain, we never have to risk exposure for any wrongdoing.

Many times, when someone is trying to exile another person from their peers and damage their reputation, it may be because they themselves were caught in a wrongdoing and are not mature enough to accept accountability for themselves.

By trying to preempt the truth with their version of the facts, they escape culpability and label anyone who holds them accountable as “angry”, “conceited”,  “rude”, “mean”, etc.

10. Where there is gossip, there is no accountability. 

You might think that by entertaining someone’s relational aggression, you’re showing support for them. In reality, you’re enabling discord and assisting in indirect aggression and bullying. By being indirect and aiding others in their manipulation, you’re not making room for facts, direct resolution, nor accountability.

It is best to not go off of hearsay, rumors, and stories. Look at every situation objectively by setting your intention for seeking resolution and harmony, rather than sewing seeds of discord, misunderstanding, and lack of accountability on the basis of something you’ve indirectly heard.

11. Alternatives to gossip.

Be the person that can respectfully express how they feel with the intention to seek clarity and resolution. Communicate directly or simply learn to accept others for who and where they are. When issues arise, we can express how we feel openly to family, professionals and personal confidants. There is never any reason to bully, alienate, spread rumors, ostracize, and legitimize hearsay about others among their safety net.

Be a safe space by seeking resolution, rather than punitive judgement, discord, confusion, and favor.

Madrid-based traveler, visual and performing artist, and content writer.

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