The Gossip – No Gossip Challenge

17 Feb

Have you ever gotten off the phone with a friend and wanted to take back half of what you said? Maybe you wished you were more positive about someone or something, or you repeated a conversation you had with another friend in confidence?

You may have wished you didn’t share so much about your own life with a pal and wondered if private information would be repeated to someone else. Or perhaps you just needed to vent, but questioned if you burdened your friend unnecessarily? Is it possible that you criticized a post or photo on social media unfairly because it seemed like everyone was at that party but you? Has a friend ever shared something snarky with you about someone else and left you wondering how much they’ve shared about you with other people?

It’s hard to know where gossip begins and ends and why we are all so drawn to it. It’s even harder to try and teach our kids how to avoid it or the drama that might make them a prime target for the scandalmongers among us.

Last year, my good friend gave up gossip for Lent (the period between Ash Wednesday and Easter where good Christians give up something that is bad for them). I thought this was a worthy cause and asked if I could join in (even though I happen to be Jewish).

But I quickly realized that our definitions of gossip were a little different. My friend had a basic rule of thumb – you don’t say anything negative about anyone and you don’t say things about a person that you know they wouldn’t want repeated.

I felt differently… I tend to think of gossip as second-hand information that you pass along, but maybe shouldn’t. To me, it isn’t always ill-intentioned and I believe it’s a very human thing to do. I also don’t think one’s opinions of anyone and/or their behavior shouldn’t be discussed – but I DO think it would be really great if we were all willing to say the things we say about people to those people.

Anyway, back to the Lent dilemma. After a few intense days of texting back and forth with questions to my friend:

  • What about talking to your husband – gossip or no?
  • Are celebrities off-limits? Because the Grammys are coming up and I might want to critique some of them – or trash them as the case may be.
  • What if a friend says something mean about someone I really like and I try to steer the conversation in another direction but it doesn’t work?
  • Does it count if you want to trash-talk about your siblings or parents? In-laws? Baby-sitter? Landscaper?
  • I soon realized I had to cut off all communication with everyone I knew because on the days I seemed to be able to control myself, it appeared others could not.

My friend started getting annoyed with my weak attempts to participate and my endless questions, but she said she would welcome me back into the fold this year, if I could give the whole project a little clarity.

And so The Gossip – No Gossip Challenge was born!

Will you join me? I think we can ALL do it this time!! Let’s give it a month – from February 18 (that way, those of you who do Lent can incorporate this into your tradition) until March 18 (the religious friends may want to take it all the way to Easter). You can feel free to let me know how you’re doing or ask questions at any time.

Maybe we’ll like ourselves so much better after this that we can all keep it going even longer. And maybe even pass it on to our kids! What do you think?

Ground Rules:

What I consider gossip: (You can tweak these a little if they don’t quite fit your definition)

  • Deliberately making up a version of a conflict, scenario or situation for YOUR benefit – to ease your own guilt, look like the better person in a conflict or get others to dislike someone you are having an issue with (AKA – embellishing, stretching the truth, exaggerating or leaving out select details).
  • Pretending to have inside information when you simply do not.
  • When there is a clear intent to make trouble for someone or get others to dislike an individual just because you do not.
  • Repeating information that is mean-spirited, is not absolutely first hand conversation, that someone has asked you to keep to yourself or that, if the tables were turned, you would not want someone to say about you or anyone you care about.

What I do not consider gossip:

  • Talking with a trusted friend about a situation with another friend that has left you upset or confused. Perhaps a friend has become distant or cold and you are trying to figure out why. Maybe you have been offended by someone and you are asking another confidante if your thoughts on the situation sound valid. Venting can be helpful in putting things in perspective.
  • If someone posts something on Fakebook Facebook or other social media, they are declaring it open season. Therefore, if you know someone who posts 5 new portraits of themselves every day or details all the amazing things their children and husbands are doing for them, they are begging for you to talk about them!
  • Likewise, if our children are posting things on social media that are deemed inappropriate, exclusionary, disrespectful, overtly sexual, etc., we have to understand and accept that people will talk – and they just might talk about our parenting first, our kids second.

How to handle a friend when she’s gossiping to you:

  • It’s vital to make sure your friend knows you are listening but not necessarily agreeing. If you stay silent and nod a lot, I promise she will take that back to others with ‘Terri totally agrees with me’. Instead, make it clear that you either don’t have an opinion on this or that your mutual friend has not shown that behavior toward you – or better yet, ask questions that may diffuse your friend’s anger – “I’m sure Kara would never intentionally leave your daughter out. Maybe she was thinking about something else and simply forgot to invite her to the party.”
  • Try your best to steer the conversation and negativity into a different direction – ‘Did you go to the game last night?’ or ‘Love your shoes!’
  • Be honest and let her know that you are trying hard to cut out your participation in gossip. And stop drinking too much – we let our guard down with that second glass of wine!
  • You can tell her you are part of The Gossip – No Gossip Challenge and invite her to join us!!

So, nice people, please take up The Gossip – No Gossip Challenge and grab your friends!! Let’s see how many friends and family members we can get to join us – ‘Share’, ‘Like’, ‘Re-tweet’, pass it on and please write to me to let me know how you have defined gossip and tweaked the challenge and how it’s going for you and yours.

We’ll re-visit this together shortly!! Ready, Set……Go!

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