By Dr. Nancy Buck
Perhaps you already know this, but most people are born knowing other people should live their lives. Opinions are like belly buttons; everyone has one. It’s just that some people have more attractive ones than others. The same is also true about opinions.
And yet, too often other people presume to be an authority about another person’s life, their choices, their life direction and life decisions. And many people feel compelled to tell the world how badly their fellow man is doing.
Often when people gather, time is spent catching other people up. Not only does one person tell of their own life and life changes, but stories may be told about the lives and changes of mutual acquaintances. Sometimes this chat fest turns into a gossip session.
Can you believe . . . or I just heard that they . . . or Next thing you know he will . . . The ending of each of these phrases is the “authority” explaining the poor choices and failings of the person being discussed.
Before you go making a faulty assumption, let me assure you that this activity is not done just by women. Although many men (and women too) accuse women of being the biggest gossips, this just isn’t true.
Telling a negative, or belittling story or disapproving gossip about another person, is too often done to help the speaker feel a greater sense of superiority and power. Putting another person down so you can feel taller or stronger ultimately back fires. A story teller or gossip often looses the respect and esteem of others.
Although gossiping may not be in the official list of disconnecting habits that destroy relationships, it fits. Gossiping contributes to creating distance in relationships between people. And ultimately gossiping can also diminish a person’s relationship with him or herself.
EXCEPT when people gossip positively! If you admire the achievement of a mutual friend, share this news. Admire and praise people loudly directly to the person and to others. Say nice things about other people, about their fine qualities and attributes.
One of my proudest moments as a parent was overhearing two women in Walmart. I entered the store a few feet behind my then teenage son David. He knew one of the women in the pair and said a friendly hello to her. He then walked on aiming for his purchase. These women did not know David and I were together or connected. The one who knew David said to her friend, “That is one wonderful kid. He is really kind and considerate. We worked together for a time and he was always willing to help me out.” What joy that gossip gave me!
If you want to improve your own mental health and happiness, stop gossiping and stop listening to other people’s gossip.
But go ahead, share positive gossip and spread good will wherever you go.