Life Lessons in Fear Fighting Love & Friendship

The Classy Girl’s Guide to Dealing With Gossip

It hurts. Really. {#@*!^} Bad! You want to run home, crawl under the covers and scream until your lungs ache. You want to slam your fists into your pillows and sulk in your room until everyone has forgotten your very existence.

You’ve been exposed. You can’t run away in a fit of tears. All you can think to do is slink away quietly and find the person who started this whole mess. You want to use any ounce of information you have about them to inflict that same type of pain only fed by this caddy, silent killer. Gossip.

I hang this poster in my classroom as a constant reminder for my students. Gossip Hurts.

We try to teach children about the pain of gossip we went through during Middle and High School, but it’s not always snobby teenage girls who make other girls feel this way.

They learned it from the best- adults.

Unfortunately, gossip doesn’t go away after High School. It’s there, dark and evil as ever, but not as obvious.

Why do we– especially when we know exactly what other women are going through- choose to make others feel smaller through this act of humiliation?

We’re so good at it.

**

It all starts in a conversation with a friend or coworker. 

We hear the slight change in her voice, the volume is turned down just a dial, and here it comes. She’s about to give us something good, something juicy, something we don’t actually want.

Something no one else knows.

“We’re having problems. We’ve decided to separate to try to get some perspective.”

Once our friend has divulged the secret, we resolve to bottle it up. We keep this poison hidden away with innocent intentions of never taking it out again. Deep down, we want to be trusted.

“Don’t worry, Jamie. You’re doing the right thing. I’m here for you. I won’t tell anyone.”

Until it comes up in another conversation.

“What’s going on with Jamie and Steve? I saw Steve’s car at his mother’s house a few days in a row. I wonder if she’s sick.”

The bottle begins to rattle inside of us. We know the truth, and they’ve spun it all wrong. We should try to fix it for Jamie. The rumbling bottle gets louder and louder- we can hardly hear what they’re saying now.

Our mouth bursts open, exposing the potion we’ve been keeping locked away.

“Well, don’t tell anybody, but…”

A little hesitation. 

“Maybe I shouldn’t. I promised not to tell.”

The other girls see the bottle and can’t help but yank it out of our hands. They stare at us wide-eyed.

“Now we have to know! We swear we won’t tell anyone.”

We take a deep breath, realizing we can’t turn back now. 

“Jamie and Steve….they’re…having marriage troubles.”

And suddenly, there it is, the bottle’s smashed open and splashed all over the table.

“Please don’t tell anyone, I promised not to tell. It’s just a little break they’re taking… for space.”

But it’s too late. You can’t clean up the spill. The group starts buzzing, and none of it is any longer in your control.

**

We know what a dangerous, stealthy weapon humiliation can be, but we use its power anyway.

With the best intentions, we find connection with other women through talking about what’s going on in the lives of others.

Maybe it makes us feel a little better about our own insecurities, or maybe we like the feeling of having some new information to share with our friends.

We don’t think about the consequences because we tell ourselves this person will never know we were chatting about them. If we say something we wish we hadn’t, we ask our friends to swear to secrecy.

We should think of new conversation topics.

Bring a game or a book of questions or some trivia. Whatever you do, stay away from talking about others unless it’s positive.

Your best tool is silence.

Because gossip, no matter how hard we try, can’t be harnessed. It can’t be controlled carefully and used without consequence. Someone will always get hurt. 

Even if you swear to secrecy, even if the subject of the gossip won’t ever know it was said.

Think about it this way. Would you want to be a topic of conversation where everyone swears they’ll keep the secret, or would you rather they not talk about you at all?

Being talked about negatively when you’re not around to hear it is like a tree falling in a forest with no one around. It’s humiliating, heard or unheard.

Ok. We promise to empower other women by not talking about them or making judgements.

After all, everyone is on their own journey. 



But what about if someone else is talking about us?

The funny thing about gossip is we’ve all also been on the receiving end, and we know about this unique pain.

We know exactly about this gut-wrenching, back-stabbing, run-and-hide-under-the-covers-until-the-end-of-time kind of pain.

I vented to a friend about something in my life because I needed to get it out, I needed someone to hear it, so I could breathe the sigh of relief you get from saying something out loud.

I should’ve said it to my dog.

I never intended to have it repeated. I needed to sound off and have her simply hear me. 

That’s it. I didn’t think I had to clarify that I didn’t want this information repeated to anyone else.

Of course, soon after, another of my friends let me know my friend had exposed my secret. 

(Should’ve seen that one coming.)

Crap.

There’s that familiar sting of disappointment. The empty pit in your stomach from knowing you were the topic of another conversation. Your friend was responsible. Your trust was misguided. You can’t take it back.

Do I think she had bad intentions? No. I’m sure it played out exactly as gossip usually does.

But, the fact remained. The gossip had been said. Revenge and exposure, although tempting, were not great options. (We’ve all seen that Mean Girls movie.)

What’s a classy girl to do?

Look at it as you would any bad experience. Look at it as a lesson- a few lessons even.

A lesson in mindfulness about your friendships.

Don’t tell this friend anything I wouldn’t mind having put on a billboard on the side of the main road of our town. 

A lesson in faith- we can’t always control the way things play out in our lives.

Don’t try to right the wrong and control the situation after it’s already happened. Trust it as part of my plan, part of my learning. Have faith it will work itself out, or at least quiet down enough so people will soon forget it.

A lesson in controlling others- it can’t be done.

My first instinct was to call her and give her an earful. I thought I’d clarify [in some other words] that I had only been venting and didn’t want the word spread.

After thinking about it, I realized this wouldn’t be much of a solution.

 I can’t control what she chooses to do with the information I give her. It was out of my hands as soon as I made the choice to give it to her.

A lesson in what to do next time I need to sound off about sensitive topics.

It might be a good idea to set a boundary if I ever do decide to give her sensitive information again, but next time I should skip that and go to a friend who has been trustworthy in the past. 

We all should have one or two friends who are able to hear our cries and offer support without spreading the word. 

Know which friends to call for this, and which not to.

We can’t change what has already happened except to learn from it.

Classy girls sit back and quietly reflect about things like friendship and gossip.

They set boundaries and realize they can’t control those around them.

They don’t need to talk negatively about other women because they’d rather lift them up than put them down.

They are confident and accepting of their own imperfections, so they don’t need validation from having the latest gossip.

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