Thursday, December 26, 2013

How to Deal With a Gossiper

Many people love it, as long as it is about someone else. When it hits home, no one likes it. I am referring to gossip. Now that the wedding and honeymoon are over, it is time to talk about a topic that everyone seems to have an opinion on. Here are my worthless two cents on how to deal with a gossiper.  This article will only be dealing with gossipers, not slanderers, which is a related but different kind of person. This article will refer to gossipers as women, but we all know that men can be guilty of it too.

First of all, we need to establish that not all gossip is bad. Gossip is simply the act of talking about someone else and can be positive, negative, or neutral. If you said, Hey Erica, Tessa graduated from high school today as the valedictorian, that is positive gossip. If you said, Hey Erica, Tessa lied on her taxes to save $300.00, that is negative gossip. If you said, Hey Erica, Tessa loves to eat spinach, that is neutral. All of these statements may be true, but not all of them need to be shared with others, especially negative gossip.

The funny part about negative gossip is that people usually do not have a problem with it until they are the subject of it. As long as the conversation is about Tessa and not about you, you probably will not think twice about partaking in it. Then what is the problem? A few things. T o understand what they are, let us first understand the thinking of your standard gossiper and what motivates them to gossip.

Kinds of Gossipers
There are two main kinds of gossipers out there. The first kind is the information relay. She is the kind of gossiper who loves to sit back and listen to people spill their guts so that she can then pass the information on. A common misconception is that gossipers will gossip to any and everyone who will listen to them, but that is not true.  An information relay gossiper will only reveal what she knows to other gossipers, those that she can trust will not reveal her as a source if some information is found out by the victim. Actually, if everyone was an information relay gossiper, probably very little information would get back to the person being discussed. The problem is with the other kind of gossiper, the revealer. In fact, anytime that a victim finds out about gossip, it will be from a revealer who does not care about causing pain to others.

The revealer is the most dangerous kind of gossiper to the gossiping community because she is not content with merely knowing others’ business and sharing it with other gossipers, she also wants the person(s) being discussed to know that she knows their business. That is when the subject(s) of the gossip get upset because they want to know from whom it originated and how many people know. The revealer is careful, though, not to be too direct in their attack. They prefer to come from the back door by pretending that they do not know anything.

Here is a recent example of something that happened to me in dealing with a revealer. I got an instant message while at work from a co-worker that I have had some dealings with outside of work. This is how the conversation started:

Revealer: Hey, Erica! What color is your mom wearing to your wedding?

Hey, I said they came from the back door, but I did not say they were too bright. This is a woman that I have had maybe a handful of dealings with outside of work and no dealings with at all on a professional level. We do not talk at work ever except for the few times she has reached out to me via IM. Does she really expect me to believe that while she is working, she, out of nowhere, wondered within herself what color my mother is supposed to be wearing to my wedding? What really happened is that an information relay (and yes, I know who she is) told her that my parents would not be attending my wedding, something that is obviously viewed as more scandalous than it is, and she wants to know why. So she is pretending that she does not know what is going on and that she is really just interested in wanted to know what my mother is wearing to my wedding. She was hoping that my answer would be that my parents are not coming so she could ask why and find out. I will give more information on that story a little later.

Why They Gossip
With so much going on in both the macrocosm and one’s own microcosm, why would an individual want to waste time discussing the lives of others? Well, to be frank, they view their own life as not interesting. I get that part. Just a short time ago my life was very boring, too. I stayed home all the time except for when I was at work, had no man, and had no social life. But that did not mean that I was preoccupying myself with what others were doing.

Not so for a gossiper. She not only wants to know what is happening with others, but she actually prides herself of knowing. In fact, she would view it as an insult to be one of the last ones to learn about the latest news. This holds true whether the person is an information relay or a revealer. In fact, every gossiper I can think of feels that their life is unfulfilled in some way. Some are single and do not have a social life, and others are in marriages that they feel are boring mentally, emotionally, and even physically. To them, if they cannot have their own fascinating life, they will be fascinated by the lives of others.

What to Do When You Are Victimized
Remember that IM conversation I mentioned earlier? Well, here is how I successfully dealt with that gossiper. I have always said that I am not a stupid person, but if you make me, I can be dumb with the best of them. So that is my first tip – act stupid. I do not mean to act stupid in the sense of getting verbally or physically abusive. I mean to really act stupid. I responded to her and said: “I’m not sure. You’ll have to ask her. Do you still have her phone number?”

Also notice that I took myself out as the middle person. If a gossiper is asking about someone else, never give information to them. Always take yourself out of the middle and direct them to the person they are asking about. I knew that she already had my mother’s phone number when I asked her, but she and I also know that my mom does not play around with people and is very direct, so it was a power play on my part. That is when she backed down and said, “I have it,” and then she went on rambling about some other nonsense, but I was not finished with her. I said, “Oh, were you asking because you have accessories to give her? She loves stuff like that.” She responded, “ I was just wondering because the mother of the bride usually wears the same colors as the bride.” So I thought to myself, This idiot must still want me to act stupid based of her asinine response so let’s take this thing a step further. I then took it upon myself to contact my mother and tell her to call the gossiper because she has a question for her. My mother knows she is a gossiper, so I told her to play along and call her because I am trying to teach her a lesson, but I never told her what she wanted to know. All I know is that was the end of that.

Another thing that you can do is to not let them play stupid. The gossiper I was dealing with is older than me by about twenty years, so I felt uncomfortable talking to her in a straightforward manner, but when dealing with peers, go for it! Ask them, Why do you want to know? Why are you asking? If she was closer to my age, the story would have played out much differently. I would have asked what made her ask me that out of nowhere. Then I would have asked her if that is really what she was thinking about while processing paperwork and if anyone said anything to her. At that point she would have felt so stupid that she would have regretted bringing it up to me in the first place and hopefully think twice before attacking her next victim. But even if you are not comfortable with being direct, you can still play stupid and take yourself out of the middle and teach those gossipers a lesson that way.

Do Not Encourage Gossipers
One reason why gossipers are still in existence is because someone keeps giving them an ear when they start gossiping. As I stated before, people usually do not care about gossip when it is about others. However, if they will talk to you about others, they talk to others about you, so do not give them an ear. Doing so only encourages their bad behavior and keeps them feeling useful as a gossiper. Remember, gossip is the only thing they have going for themselves.

When a gossiper starts to spin their harmful yarn in your ear, change the subject, stop responding (they will think you are silent because you are not interested), and/or directly tell them that what they are saying is the other person’s business and you could not care less. The method you use depends on the gossiper, but at least one of these will work on every gossiper. For example, the revealer I sicked my mother on will not stop gossiping when I change the topic because she simply changes it back. What works on her is not responding or even acknowledging that she is talking.

Stop Gossiping!
If you are a gossiper and are reading this article, I strongly encourage you to cut it out. Wouldn't it be better to get a life of your own? Get a hobby, learn a new language, travel, take up photography – anything to keep other people’s business from leaving your mouth. If it was you, would you want the whole town to know your personal business? Of course not.  So why would you do that to others? And gossipers had better be very careful nowadays. People are too sensitive today and everyone seems to be carrying a heavy burden. It does not take much to make someone snap anymore.

Have you ever been a victim of gossip? How did you deal with it and how did it turn out?

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