“These are not the droids you’re looking for.” Jedi mind tricks only work on the weak-minded, but we’re all prone to gossip and the power of suggestion.
I was at my daughter’s practice, reading my Kobo. There was a bit of chatter about an upcoming event, but mostly as a group we were watching our kids. Another parent walked in and began chatting with someone she knew.
“Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people.” Eleanor Roosevelt
The happy chatter ceased as the mom-collective listened in to her rant about how dissatisfied she was with the coaches. I tried not to listen, but her voice carried across the room. It seemed evident to me that she didn’t care who heard her complaints.
As the disgruntled mom continued her rant, which became more heated and cutting, I found myself silently agreeing with her. She was pointing out some valid flaws playing out right before us. Maybe she had a point. Maybe we would be better to try a different program next year. Maybe maybe maybe…
“Every man is surrounded by a neighborhood of voluntary spies.”
― Jane Austen
Practice ended and I left, and reason returned. As long as my daughter is having fun and learning new things, I don’t much care about the issues this mom was so upset about. But in the moment, I got caught up in it. Maybe I’m a lemming.
Have you ever had that happen? One loud voice raised above the others incites dissatisfaction and anger where none previously existed. You find yourself agreeing with their point of view, either because you share it, or it’s an issue you haven’t given much thought to and their argument sounds reasonable?
“How much time he gains who does not look to see what his neighbour says or does or thinks, but only at what he does himself.”
― Marcus Aurelius, Meditations
Gossip is such a malicious thing. I’ve really struggled with this, still do to a certain extent. I am also someone with strong opinions. I like to make people think, but I don’t intentionally share my opinions to intimidate or imply people should/have to agree with me. Here are a few things I try to keep in mind so I don’t let something slip I can’t take back later:
- Always extend grace (the benefit of the doubt) as much as possible. Extend grace to the person who’s talking as often as you can, there are a million different reasons they could be ranting or complaining that have nothing to do with the subject of their ire. Avoid using value statements or implying subcontext when sharing your opinions – You’d be crazy to do x or y…
- Don’t be a lemming. Think through what the other person’s saying. Does it make sense? Is it important to you? What are the potential consequences?
- Don’t repeat what’s said. Some people like to talk, some like to talk big. Doesn’t mean you have to join in. Don’t add to the problem.
- Don’t speak poorly of someone, speak to the person directly. If you wouldn’t say it to their face, then don’t say anything at all.
- It’s OK to agree to disagree. This doesn’t have to be a deal breaker, nor does it have to lead to an argument. Differences add color and variety, and others opinions help you solidify your own. Embrace those differences, don’t criticize.
- Assume everything of a personal nature shared with you is said in confidence. I really struggle to know what I should and shouldn’t share, so I err on the side of caution and try not to share anything unless expressly given permission to.
- Remember that others are entitled to their own opinions, and they have the right to refuse to even rationally consider yours. Some people thrive on controversy and spreading discontent. Take your ball and find a new sandbox – don’t play their game.
How do you handle gossip? What tips would you add to this list to curb or help you stop and think before speaking?
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