I know I know, I should advise you to never gossip. It’s simply a rude practice and something that more often than not will come back to bite you. It makes you appear petty, juvenile and even mean spirited. That being said… isn’t it fun! Yes we ladies love to gossip, it’s in our genes. I hardly expect you to to give it up completely, you’re not Mother Theresa and I bet even she fell prey to the occasional slip of the tongue. So instead of telling you to simply abstain I’ll share some tips on how to handle gossip like a lady.
- When partaking in gossip carefully scout the location for nosey ease droppers. Nobody likes a sloppy gossip. Choose a place with little to no chance of being overheard. I like to err on the side of paranoia. It’s better to be safe than sorry. You never know who knows who. Your waitress could easily be the cousin of your number one frenemy. And don’t think you can relax just because you’re abroad, it doesn’t give you a license to become indiscreet. The world is a small place and I can tell you first hand how common it is to coincidentally bump into someone you know. You never know whose lurking in the shadows.
- Always keep your voice to a clear but minimum level. You don’t want to whisper because that’s a clear sign you’re saying something untold. Just keep a low even level. You don’t want perfect strangers to hear your conversation and think ill of you.
- Be clever with your choice of words. You can gossip without being mean spirited. It’s one thing to comment on so and so’s hideous met gala gown by saying “What an interesting choice Helen made at the gala this year (eyebrows raised)” vs “That was the ugliest dress I’ve ever seen. It would have looked less ridiculous on a pig (howls of laughter).” With the first you are using body language, raised eyebrows, to discreetly convey your true thoughts without using negative words like “ugliest” and “ridiculous.” The second comment is too blunt and would sound mean to anyone who overheard. You can convey meaning without saying it harshly.
- Preface your gossip by saying “I don’t know if it’s true, but I heard…” There’s a fine line between gossiping and flat out lying and this phrase helps make the line a little clearer. If you honestly don’t know if something is a fact always start off by saying you’re not sure. “Jacky is having an affair.” is different than “I don’t know if it’s true, but I heard Jacky is having an affair.” It doesn’t save you from gossip damnation but at least you’re being clear on what you know to be fact.
- If you’re going to gossip be the parrot not the instigator. It’s one thing to be tempted to repeat a juicy story, even if you may question its truth but you must never be the one who starts the gossip. Not only will it cause you to lose complete credibility but if anyone finds out you will loose respect and trust.
If you aren’t a lady who loves to gossip I commend you. Truely it’s the best practice, it keeps you out of trouble and makes you appear confident, credible and kind. Even if you don’t partake there will still be occasions where you will be subject to hearing gossip and in these situations you must be aware how to proceed.
- Nobody likes a goody two-shoes. Don’t scold friends who do gossip. I can guarantee you won’t be invited to any more teatimes. Remember sometimes gossiping or bad mouthing can be a form of venting. Although you may not approve of what a friend is saying you can still be there for her as a silent sounding board. Simply listen thoughtfully and respond as vaguely as possible. Remember being a good listener doesn’t mean you have to add to the negative commentary you just have to make your friend feel heard.
- Don’t feel pressure to repeat what you’ve heard. Just because you’ve heard some gossip it doesn’t mean you have an obligation to repeat it to others, even if they may ask for the story. Simply say that you don’t want to get involved or you forgot the details. Be vague and change the subject.
- Be honest if you don’t wish to hear a particular piece of gossip. You could vehemently disagree, be offended or even be put in an awkward situation by hearing certain gossip. In this case feel free to make your opinion known and make it clear that you don’t wish to hear anymore. Don’t sound critical when you say it just mention that you aren’t comfortable hearing any more as it puts you in an awkward or uncomfortable position. You can’t unhear something so if you know it’s coming cut the conversation short.
Now on the flip side, if you happen to be the subject of gossip there are certain protocols that if taken will make you come out of the situation looking composed, mature and frankly the better person.
- If there’s a childish bit of gossip about you try to rise above it and ignore. Don’t bother addressing it as it just gives it more attention. By completely disregarding it you’re saying it’s so insignificant it doesn’t warrant any sort of response. You can even make light of it by making it into a little joke. When Alice tells everyone you’ve been getting liposuction you can make little comments such as “I’ll have the chocolate mousse. (side glance) You know I’ll just get it liposuctioned away next week (girlish giggle).” It belittles everything Alice has said and makes her look like a jealous rat.
- If there is gossip that could seriously hurt your reputation then go to the source. You can rise above certain situations but if it’s a serious defamation of character you need to speak up for yourself. Don’t try to defend yourself to every meddling busybody. If you know or have an idea who started the gossip go to them directly and calmly ask if they have speaking about you and if so you would appreciate them stopping. Try to be composed, firm and non accusatory. You want to keep the conversation as calm and concise as possible. If you yell, cry or whine they won’t take you seriously and may think you have something to hide. You want to show that you’re strong and confident and won’t stand for that kind of behavior.
- Try to keep your personal life personal. People will always talk but to prevent true and embarrassing gossip being spread about you be careful whom you open up to. Don’t tell your secrets to those you’re not close with or those you don’t trust.
- Never respond by spreading gossip about the instigator. Two wrongs don’t make a right and you will just come across as childish and insecure. Be the bigger woman, not physically of course.
The style in which you gossip gives permission for others to treat you the same. If you can’t handle being the subject of gossip then don’t participate yourself. There will always be gossip but it’s how you handle it that shows your true character.
HOMEWORK: What’s the best technique you’ve used to handled gossip? Let me know in the comments below!