There are many ways to stop gossip. Maybe the most important way is to stop repeating what we hear. But since so many people struggle with the consequences of gossip and because so many are hurt by it, I thought we would offer a slightly different take on the subject. We’ve talked about ways to stop gossip before but here we look at your response to gossip. See what you think.
When a friend, co-worker or fellow church member begins to talk about someone, what do you do? Just listen? Do you store it up for later. Is your mind churning out names of people who have yet to hear the latest scoop? Changing your response to gossip can make a difference.
1. One Way To Stop Gossip: Be Aggressive
It may not be a suitable solution for everyone but for some of us it would be quite easy. Interrupt their report and say, “Look, I really don’t need to know that about _____.” It is a bit confrontational but it will work. I guarantee you will shut down the conversation almost instantly. Of course the gossiper may just turn and report to someone else but you will have stood your ground and made it less likely they will come to you again. You also plant a seed in their mind that not everyone approves of gossip. If you have the courage – try it.
2. One Way To Stop Gossip: Be Busy
Ok, you don’t want to gossip but you don’t want to offend the person speaking. That’s understandable. Here’s another idea. When someone starts to gossip, quickly excuse yourself by saying, “Can we talk later? I’m really covered up right and need to get back to work.” Then head off to do something else.
This doesn’t send a message to the gossiper but it does break the cycle and it removes you from the unhealthy environment. As a protective measure it will work. It may be the best solution for you.
3. One Way To Stop Gossip: Divert the Conversation
We can tell when gossip is about to start. You are familiar with the subtle changes in body language and the slight change in voice that precede a moment of gossip. As soon as you sense the shift to unwholesome talk, change the subject. It works like this:
“Bob was telling me about Carol’s problem with her husband. He said….”
You interrupt, “Oh, I’m sorry but I’ll forget if I don’t ask while it’s on my mind. Did you send that file over to purchasing this morning? I know they were looking for it.”
“Uh, yes, I sent it this morning right after we talked.”
“Oh good. Do you think we got all reports like they wanted them?”
We do it all the time. When someone brings up a subject we do not want to talk about we change the subject. Do the same thing with a gossip topic.
4. One Way To Stop Gossip: Befriend the Target
A gossip depends upon secrecy to protect them from discovery and the consequences of being labeled a busybody. Threaten that secrecy and they will silence themselves. As soon as one friend begins to talk about another, say something very kind about the target of their gossip.
“I heard the other day that Carol was having trouble with her husband.
You reply: You know Carol is one of my favorite people. She is so sweet. Maybe we should go and tell what you heard and see if we can help.”
If the gossip believes that you are close to the target they will think twice before dropping any unflattering words. And, by asking them to accompany you to talk to them about the gossip, you ensure that the report comes to a rapid conclusion.
5. One Way To Stop Gossip: Be Passive
So, all of these approaches are too much for you? You could just sit a listen although that is the worse possible solution. You feign attention and interest and allow the story to roll out. You say nothing although you know you should. Nevertheless, being passive is better than being active. At least you do not circulate the story.
Passive works for everyone. It’s the least courageous approach but it still works. In fact if everyone listened and did not repeat all gossip would cease.
Gossip is a horrible habit. Break it if you have it and shun it if you do not. There are ways to stop gossip and they work if you will use them.