Gossip. We hate it when others gossip about us, but we love gossiping about others. Did you see what she was wearing last night? Did you hear about their breakup? Isn't he the worst?
Don't get me wrong. I've stabbed my fair share of backs. In fact, if we added up all the times I've gossiped about others, it'd be clear that I'm probably the least qualified person to even be writing this in the first place. But, that's the thing about grace, isn't it? You can start over any day-you don't even have to wait until tomorrow!
Just like I've done my fair share of gossiping, I've also felt my fair share of hurt, and seen the damage this bad habit can cause to friendships and relationships. I mean talk about the opposite of productivity! Let's talk about how gossip may be doing more damage than you realize, and how you can quit this bad habit cold turkey!
1. Gossip Breaks Trust
There are a few ways that gossip breaks trust. For instance, if you share private information with your friend and find out they've shared that information, the trust you felt toward your friend originally is likely damaged. You'll be less willing to confide in them in the future as you know they shared your private information before, and your overall trust in them won't be the same.
It also breaks trust in this sense. One of the reasons I became so passionate about quitting gossip is that I realized what a bad friend and confidant it made me, even if I only gossiped about select people.
I would share my stories or private information other friends told me in the hopes of gaining trust and friendship with new friends or people I didn't gossip about, only to realize I was doing the exact opposite. By sharing another person's information, I was showing my friends that I'm not trustworthy or a good friend and that they shouldn't confide in me either.
The idea that gossip creates a bond is something I've held onto for so long without even knowing it! I would meet a new person and default to gossip right away as a bonding tool. But in the process, I was showing them what a horrible friend I was and that, if they trusted me with their private information and reputation, I might share that too.
2. Gossip Damages Self Confidence
Studies show that children who are gossiped about have more self-esteem issues and lower self-confidence in life than those who aren't gossiped about. You can teach your child all the resiliency and self-confidence you want, but when they're the victim of gossip, it makes it so much harder to be confident in who you are.
You begin worrying about what others think of you all the time, and changing who you are to defer as much ridicule or gossip as possible. In another sense, gossip is a funny cycle. When I gossip, I realize after the fact how empty and insecure I feel. My own gossip stems from a lack of self-confidence that I'm trying to place on someone else.
3. Gossip Cultivates an Unhealthy Environment
If you've been in a group of friends that gossips regularly, even if you were the one participating, you know how unhealthy that environment gets.
Gossip circles are just plain toxic. There's no other way to put it. There's nothing good that stems from gossip.
4. Gossip Increases Anxiety
On top of damaging self-esteem and confidence, gossip can also increase anxiety levels. You might begin worrying too much about what others think about you, or it might feel like you're stepping on eggshells when you're around certain people. You may feel the need to impress, and be less likely to feel comfortable as yourself.
Anxious thoughts tend to build up, and you end up spiraling in anxiety, worrying about what other people are saying about you.
5. Gossip Steals Another Person's Reputation
One of the most powerful phrases I've heard about gossip is this.
Gossip is stealing another person's reputation.
We spend our whole lives building a reputation, even if it's not on purpose. We do certain things and express certain values because we want people to know who we are and what we believe. We want people to know our reputations, and most of the time we want them to look a certain way.
Now, don't mistake reputation for being a goody two shoes. Your reputation isn't based on all the things you've done wrong. Rather, it's based on how you respond and fix it. Maybe you and that person got in a fight, but how did you resolve it? Maybe you did bad things back then, but you've changed now!
Your reputation is whatever you make it! Every person should have control over their reputation based on who they are, not on what others say about them. When you gossip about someone else, you steal that reputation. You take information that, even if true, isn't for others to hear and you share it anyway. Plus, we tend to leave out the good parts and how they've fixed a situation or dealt with something.
You change people's opinions about someone when you gossip. Oh, I didn't know they did that. Boom, reputation stolen. When I think of my reputation, I want it to be based solely on what others encounter with me directly. Not what other people say about me, don't you?
How to Stop Gossiping
Quitting a bad habit isn't easy. I mean, if you've learned anything from habits to cut out of your life right now, it's that quitting is anything but easy! And I am totally still learning.
But, here are some of the tips that have helped me so far.
Find a quitting buddy.
Doing things alone has never been my forte, so one of my favorite tips for cutting out the bad habit of gossip is to do it with someone else! Find an accountability partner, mentor, counselor, friend, or family member to hold you accountable when you gossip, help you as you try to quit, and walk through the journey with you.
Focus on gratitude instead.
Quitting bad habits is great, but it's easy for them to pop up again when we don't replace them with anything else. So, what should you replace gossip with? Gratitude! Focusing on gratitude is a great way to lower entitlement, increase positivity, and quit gossip. How? Write in a gratitude journal for a few minutes each day. List five things you're grateful for every time you get in your car.
Out of all these tips, this one is by far my least favorite. But honestly, that probably means it's the most important. One of the best ways you can quit gossiping is to apologize. Text a friend you've gossiped about, or one you've gossiped with and just say sorry. Let them know you're trying to do better and change, and how thankful you are for their friendship in the meantime. And, if you start gossiping with others, simply stop yourself and say, wow, hey I'm sorry guys I shouldn't be gossiping.
Don't gossip in your head.
A lot of the times, gossip in person stems from gossip in our heads. Here's what I mean. There's a girl who walks in to the store and her outfit is just horrendous. Of course, there's no one beside you, so you think to yourself, wow, that outfit is horrible! Look at her shoes. I am so glad I'm not her.
What are you bound to do with these thoughts in your head? Share them later. Rushing to judgements about other people and dwelling on these things is bound to show up as gossip later on, so it's best to just stop the judgement altogether.
If you catch yourself, just stop!
Lastly, if you catch yourself gossiping, just stop! Even if you have to awkwardly cut off a sentence, or break off a conversation, just stop. You can do so politely if you're in a group that's gossiping, and say hey guys, this conversation makes me uncomfortable. Can we talk about something else?
I hope everyone reading this understands that gossip is at the top of my struggle list. In fact, I wrestle with a lot of shame and guilt based on gossip I've done in the past and I hate how inclined I am to continue it every day!
The friendships I've just ruined with gossip! The amount of times I've stolen someone else's reputation and slandered them! If this blog post is for anyone, it's for me. But with that comes the understanding that I'm not alone. If you struggle with gossip, then I hope this blog blesses you and shows you how you can quit this truly bad habit cold turkey! It's damaging to everyone involved, even those spreading it.
Gossip may be a great bonding tool, but in the long run, it does so much more damage than good.
If you've gone through this struggle before, feel free to leave a comment or two about how you learned to stop gossiping! What tips helped you the most? How has gossip hurt you? Be sure to hit the follow button for more sunny side posts!