When is it appropriate to share personal or private information, even conversationally, with someone else? What’s considered gossip?
I had an awful experience a few years ago. One of my friends had been telling an ex and his new girlfriend everything we’d talked about. I had shared some emotional situations with my friend in confidence, and was enraged to learn that my secrets were now in the public domain. She had told them about the dating I was doing and about the way I felt about our breakup. How did I find out? Well, the ex was playing me. He’d pop in and out every so often and pull on my heartstrings in the exact way I was vulnerable. He started having relationship problems with his new person and then began to talking to me as they considered where they were going with their relationship. (Clearly, they were going down the drain.) I didn’t know he was not yet out of the relationship.
During one of the circular, frustrating conversations with my ex, he asked a very specific, leading question about how my dating was going. I had been vague and nonplussed by him until this point, but that particular question was a tell. I paused. He began to back pedal. I asked how he knew this and, trying to protect the mutual friend, he made up a dumb answer. I could read right through the lie. With my problem-solving hat on, I realized that my friend had been two-faced and had been gossiping about me.
The ex issue is for another blog, but the friend problem was real and surprisingly quick. I called her and asked what possessed her to discard years of friendship by speaking about me behind my back to my ex? The situation was unbelievable to me. It all started making sense. She was an insecure person who needed validation and approval in order to feel like she mattered. She had mattered a lot to me and I thought we were close. I felt betrayed and hurt by this mindless gossip.
There’s a thick line between being curious about someone while also caring about them, versus inquiring with a gossipy mindset.
I think it boils down to intentions. Is the intention in asking about someone done with love or is it done out of competition, jealousy, or revenge? How will you use the information you’ve gotten? Will you share it with others? Will you offer support through a difficult time?
But the real question, which occurs to me as I’m writing this, is actually why does it matter what anyone else is doing? Can’t we simply mind our own business? How does hearsay about anyone else’s errors or difficulties help us? How does my life improve when hearing gossip about someone else? Yes, it’s tantalizing and titillating to hear the latest news about celebrities, your ex, a former boss, or your frenemy, but does it really serve you?
It feels hurtful be to the person who’s being gossiped about. Rumors, tattling, stories, and gossip are typically inaccurate. Being told gossip also breeds mistrust in my friends, and I have to wonder will I be next? Will they find something critical about me to share with each other behind my back?
In sum, I find the best course of action is to mind my own freakin’ business. I’m mature enough to realize when something I say will be hurtful. I know better than to speak ill of someone and risk credibility or a relationship. I’ve learned that it can take people lots of time to learn the lesson to stop gossiping and start minding their own business. I’m always surprised when I meet an adult who still practices the gossip game, and then remember to mind my own business about why it’s like this.
It comes down to this: It’s my problem, my mistake, my life. Mind your own business! I will come to you when I’m ready. Util then, please mind your own business!
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