You know when you might be with a friend and you’re having a great conversation, but suddenly it turns into them complaining or gossiping about someone who’s not there? The mood changes, right? And now you find yourself in an uncomfortable situation, because A, you don’t want to gossip and B, you happen to like the person they’re gossiping about. So what do you do? Nip it in the bud and make it clear you’re not a gossip.
If you’re allergic to gossip and you want someone to stop gossiping to you about someone then I’m sharing three ways you can do that.
Let’s have a look.
Even if you don’t know the person they’re gossiping about, it’s best to make it clear to the gossip that you’re not going to participate in gossiping. If you just nod and let them gossip, even if you don’t say anything negative about the person being gossiped about, it signals to the gossip that you’re ok with gossiping. So it behooves you to stand up to them with these three shut-downs.
The first thing you can say is: “What do you mean.” Asking them what they mean or meant by this requires that they reflect on what they’ve just said. It causes them to pause and think about the reason they’re speaking this way. In a gentle way it’s putting them on the spot. And because of that, they might have a change of heart and apologize for gossiping.
So use “what do you mean” or “what did you mean by that?” or “how so? I’m not really following.” any iteration of “what do you mean” should work because it’ll force the person to pause and think about their words. It’s subtle but effective.
The next thing is to call them out. This is more deliberate because you’re saying something like “Wow, that’s an unkind thing to say. Why did you say that?” So you can remark on how unkind a thing to say that is, and follow up with asking them why they’d say something like that. If you wanted to add a bit more you could say, “I hadn’t pegged you as a gossip” because it shows that you are surprised by this behavior. In some ways you’re showing them you feel a bit let down, having thought of them one way but finding out they’re another. No one wants to be friends with a gossiper. If they’re gossiping about someone to you, then rest assured they’re gossiping about you to someone else. So you are putting them on the spot by calling them out.
The last thing you can say is that that’s not been your experience. So in this way you’re standing up for the person being gossiped about. In this scenario you have a personal connection with the person being discussed and you’re not happy to hear them being talked about in this way. So you can say “Well actually in my experience, X has been nothing but kind and generous.” You can even share a personal anecdote to illustrate your point if you feel so inclined.
Alright so these are three strategies you can use to stand up to a gossiper. Gossiping is never a good idea. It doesn’t reflect well on you as a person, if you’re the one gossiping. And it will always come back to bite. Asking the person what they mean by what they said, calling them out for saying something unkind, or standing up for the other person by sharing your experience can shut the gossiping down once and for all.
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