Idle words. Talk, talk, talk…
Notice how everyone loves to get the latest dish from you about what’s up with whom? You like having their full attention to hear all the latest dirt. You keep your ear t the ground and are ready to serve up a fresh serving of dirty laundry with the compelling, “Word on the street is…”
You don’t think twice about saying something about others behind their backs. Ever wonder what others think about you behind your back? Chances are, the very same people who love to hear you spin your attention-getting headlined yarns about the private lives of others, are wondering (and concerned) about what you are saying about them when they’re not in your presence.
You may not realize, when you’re reporting the latest gossip, what you’re really communicating to your listening audience is, “I can’t be trusted.”
There is a deeper connection and level of communication that takes place between people who possess a high degree of trust between them. The gossiper is less likely to have this type of deep connection with another person, and if this level of communication does exist, it will likely deteriorate in the light of continued gossip as the once-deeply-connected individual recoils in fear; fear of betrayal, anticipating what you might report about him/her to others to garner attention and amusement.
If you are in the habit of spewing idle words when others are not present, you might consider doing just the opposite. When you are talking about someone and the details of their life, make certain that you are talking to the person who is the topic of your story. It really is that easy. If that person is not present, don’t say it.
In business, management often struggles with the milieu of the rumor mill among the workforce, as it eats away at the fabric of productivity and breaks down an otherwise cohesive team network. Responsible businesses maintain a gossip-free zone, and when someone’s story-telling is detected at the workplace, measures are taken to get the storyteller and the subject face-to-face, while reinforcing (or enforcing) the no gossip policy.
Being in the business of helping others puts me in a position to maintain a high level of confidence with my clients. They tell me their deepest, darkest secrets, hopes, desires and dreams. Over the course of my life’s work, I’ve heard it all, and it is my responsibility to maintain confidentiality and respect the non-disclosure of the intimate details of their lives.
As fascinating as it might be to hear about someone else’s dirty laundry, when someone has the propensity to go on and on about other people’s life, more likely than not, I will turn the conversation around to the storyteller, with a, “Tell me how this affects your life,” or, “Have you ever found yourself in a similar situation?” Or I might ponder out loud, “Hmm, I wonder what it must feel like to be in that person’s shoes?” while shifting into, “Tell me about you…”
By disengaging in the activity of talking about others behind their backs, people will be less likely to consider you to be potentially toxic, begin to trust you more and you will be able to enjoy the benefit that comes from having deeper, more meaningful, connections with other people.