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How to deal with gossip in your community

Updated

By Joyce Reyes-Aguila

“Gossip is what no one claims to like, but everybody enjoys.” – Joseph Conrad, novelist and writer.   Some people just love talking about the lives of others. Whether out of curiosity or lack of having anything better to do, some idle minds gladly enjoy spreading gossip. Speaking ill or spreading falsehoods has caused trouble for many – straining some relationships while ending others. Gossip is everywhere – at the workplace, among family members, and even in our neighborhoods.

Nobody is immune from talk whether they socialize or not in their community. Social media platforms made people more vulnerable to gossip. A single post can result in different interpretations from every door in the neighborhood. No wall is high enough and no house is beautiful enough to exempt its occupants from chatter. Learning to deal with gossip properly can enable us to handle difficult, nasty neighbors and situations that hearsay can confront us with. We share some expert tips – not just ones we heard from the grapevine – to help you along the way.

And right away, we suggest. “The courage to confront someone who’s talking behind your back (or involved in) a gossip fest… is, at first, hard,” Maralee McKee writes on her site mannersmentor.com. “However, once you flex your zero-tolerance muscles a few times, others will learn you’re a gossip-free zone.” Some may have the tendency to ignore gossip or let things be. Deciding to do so can make you the target of choice in your neighborhood. If you establish early on that you do not tolerate such treatment, people will be more careful when they talk about you.

Whatever your neighbors say to you when you meet at the park for afternoon brisk walks or in casual conversations after community meetings should end with you. Do not be an instrument of gossip spreading further. Like we see in parlor games at parties, messages are hardly accurately passed on to others. What we see as harmless chatter can completely change a story about somebody’s life.

  • Stop gossip with a positive attitude.

Your goal is to address a possible wrongdoing. Avoid raising your voice or name-calling the gossipers, McKee reminds. Do not create a scene that can make you lose control of the situation. You may give others new material that can be used against you. And if gossip is being shared with you, the manners expert suggests you verbalize that you do not want to be part of it. Excuse yourself from the conversation and say you do not want to be part of something that is harmful to others. Or ask if you should be worried that they spread gossip about your family immediately after they have said something about another family in your community.

  • Gossip versus sharing news.

 If you have heard about a couple who may be splitting soon or someone who may be pregnant, it is not your news to share, says McKee. “If someone has shared something with you, always assume it’s in confidence,” she reminds. “Bringing you into their inner circle means they trust you; it’s not an invitation to spread the (information).” She adds that psychologists consider the way we speak about others as an “act of transference… When we talk about others, the people we tell soon begin to assign those same traits to us. So, if we’re ever going to spread anything about someone, let it be a compliment!”

  • Apologize if you are guilty.

Take responsibility for your actions, McKee insists. Ask for forgiveness and take steps to reconcile with your neighbor. It will take time, and if things do not go back to how they were before the gossip, accept it as a consequence of your actions.

  • Discuss matters with your family and your house help.

Should your family be the topic of destructive hearsay in your neighborhood, the best defense is to get everyone together. Internally deal with the matter first. Let each share what he or she has heard, and his/her feeling about it. Ask for suggestions on what you can do to address it. If you are bringing the matter to the neighborhood association or barangay already, make everyone aware. And do not forget to give clear instructions with your house help who may think that sharing with other house help is not a big deal. They should be part of protecting your home from gossip, too.

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