Responding to Gossip
Written by Emma Burbidge Posted in Beat bullying
Gossip is a part of life. It permeates through the class room, the school playground, the workplace and friendship groups.
Sometimes gossip can be harmless, like sharing banter with your mates over the latest celebrity gaffes or reading the gossip columns of the tabloid newspaper.
Gossip is a part of life and social interaction between people. Sometimes it can mean you avoid difficult conversations when you are going through a difficult period in your life.
Throughout history people have used it to communicate a message before there were emails or mobile phones. However there are limitations to gossip, for example, an account of your holiday might be different depending on who you are telling it to, there may be bits you wish to leave out, include or edit for your mother/father, boyfriend/girlfriend, best mate.
If the gossip method was applied in this case then your mother find out about the night you got drunk and puked all over the floor, or your boyfriend might find out about the cute guy you were dancing with. Gossip can cause severe damage to relationships.
Another limitation of gossip is that it can be distorted in the telling, a Chinese Whispers effect. Information passed around and distorted until the version that comes out is different or sometimes even the opposite to the original that was told. This will cause confusion between people who may have heard different versions of the story.
Gossip can be harmful when it is used to humiliate, malign or bully another. It can make them distressed, angry, hurt or depressed. And you are partly responsible if you spread the gossip, even if you are not the one who started it in the first place.
In work situations gossip can cause you to lose your job. Slander and libel are also forms of gossip and these are against the law, for example making a false accusation about a politician or celebrity.
If you don’t know the facts, don’t spread them. Simple as.
If you are on the receiving end of gossip what should you do?
- Remember that whoever started the rumour may be being bullied themselves or have been gossiped about. They are only picking on you because they have low self-esteem and not because there is anything wrong with you
- Take the opportunity to correct people who have got it wrong. They might not be being malicious and simply got the wrong end of the stick. Of course they shouldn’t be gossiping about you in the first place, but if you are nice to them when you correct them they may be more inclined to stop and correct any people they may have already told
- If the gossip has got out of hand, inform someone who can help. This could be your boss, a teacher or a parent
- Don’t gossip yourself. If you gossip yourself then you give the gossiper credibility, giving them the opinion that it is acceptable to spread gossip about you because you are about them. It is important to treat others as you would like to be treated, as this minimises the damage
- Confide in people you trust. If there is something you don’t want to tell the whole world to know then limit who you tell. Sometimes we may feel the need to ‘overshare’.
And remember, be confident.