Some of them are just idle chatter about Sex and the City’s girlfriend: “Ooh, did you see that beautiful man that she brought with her to the party last night? All I can say is: ‘Go away, girl!
And then there is the bad brand of gossip in which people talk about others in a negative way that is harmful: the kind of conversation that leaves nothing but destruction in its wake.
The third type of gossip, however, that I will call gossip “complaint”, is the gossip that has at its root some complaint. It’s the gossip that happens around the water cooler or during the happy hour cocktails or on that weekly phone call with your sister where she tells her story, and you’re the good man that you put on, and another person is the bad man. The problem is that the gossip of the complaint almost never makes any difference. You complain and tell your story to someone who has no connection to the complaint, the complaint is never resolved, and you simply create an agreement about how bad things are and should not be.
This is normal? Absolutely, it happens all the time. Does it leave you and others satisfied? Inspired? Happy? No way. You are simply right about the unfairness of life, which could give you some juice at the moment, but ultimately it is unsatisfactory.
And we still do it, right? According to a recent study, more than half of our conversations, and this is for both men and women, are driven by gossip. But there is a cost to this widespread phenomenon. In addition to the obvious impacts of wasted time and reduced productivity, there is the fact that gossip creates a wedge between people, adversely affects the way others see you and undermine their happiness and vitality.
The good news is that you can transform the gossip of complaint into something that can really bring you closer to the people in your life. That is how:
- Look when you’re gossiping. Participating in gossip is a habit, which means that you do it without thinking. Practice asking yourself if your speech is contributing something positive to the conversation or if it is diminishing someone. Simply paying attention to what comes out of your mouth is half the battle.
- Identify a complaint. Stop and ask yourself what the complaint is under the gossip. Is it that your boss has given you more work to do than you can handle? Do the cancellations of your friend’s last-minute social plans make you nervous? Are you complaining about your spouse to your friends really about the fact that you would like to have more time with him?
- Take it to the right person. Look to see what application can make you approach the situation that is bothering you, and then identify the best person you can go to. If you have more on your plate than you can handle at work, instead of complaining about it to your coworkers, ask your boss to sit down and prioritize what you will do now and what you can postpone, done by another person, or removed from the list of tasks completed. Instead of talking to your friends about your partner, go directly to him with a request that he can accept, reject or counteroffer.
People are often amazed at the ease with which a simple request can resolve circumstances that once seemed like a lost cause. As you practice these steps over time, you will develop some power to turn gossip into gold, and you will become someone whose speaking creates new possibilities, leaving you and others larger.