Gossip: Who, What, Why & How To Stop It

Everyone does it, and frankly, it’s a distasteful and doleful behavior that unfortunately isn’t so much looked down upon in society. The act of gossiping occurs everywhere; no longer muttered and whispered while in public or reserved for a back-alley break or behind closed doors over coffee. Gossiping is a behavior that is so common these days thanks (but no thanks) to tabloids magazines and shows like TMZ. What’s unfortunate is how gossip has truly taken over the everyday conversation. Think about the last time you gathered as a group or chitchatted with a friend (or even a client). What did you talk about? Most importantly, whom did you talk about? Were you sharing something scandalous? Something that thwarts one’s character that made one of you gasp, smirk or say, “Guess what I heard?”

We’re all guilty of committing this unkind act, whether we’re talking about someone in our family or a friend, a co-worker or a boss (heck, even a celebrity). When we choose to share something that may or may not be true about another individual, it’s gossip. And according to psychologists, this act of schadenfreude, the pleasure derived by someone from another person’s misfortune, is a heightened fascination most practiced by woman (with men trailing quickly behind) and is used as a social tool to bond with others. While there is a definite therapeutic benefit to discussing issues that you may be having with someone, asking for another point of view or for advice on how to handle a situation, there is a point where discussing and “venting” ends, and speculation and mudslinging begins. Gossip is unfortunately, more often than not the driving force of what is bringing people together; not inspiring and enlightening conversations, but chinwag chatter from blabbermouths.

According to an article from Psychology Today, a research team from the University of Amsterdam found that 90 percent of total office conversation qualifies as gossip. Think about that next time you walk into work. And if you’re a salon professional working in a salon, take a second to pause reading this, close your eyes for a moment and just think about how much gossip occurs during salon hours. It’s a bit disheartening when you think about it, huh? It’s more heartbreaking when you ask yourself, “How many times have my personal secrets, my fears, actions and decisions been the topic of conversation amongst others who had nothing better to discuss but to relish in my adversity and misfortunes?” Sure, we can all say, “I don’t care what people say about me,” and that’s great to have that level of strength and confidence, but it’s not solving the problem.

If you have to whisper, would never want it repeated and it’s not about you/your life then it’s probably gossip.

To completely abolish gossip may never happen, but as a society—an educated, well-structured and cultured society—we can all do a few things to help minimize this act within our social circles and workplace. Here’s how:

Take a Vow: Stop doing it. It’s really that simple. Vow to you that gossiping isn’t your thing and stand by it. We all know the saying, “think before you speak,” and this is a prime example of the importance of staying true to that motto. Before you share someone else’s business, ask yourself the following, “Is this something they would like me to share on their behalf? Will this put them in a positive light or bring a level of shame and discomfort if they found out I have shared it with someone? Have I promised this person I’m about to talk about that I wouldn’t reveal or share this piece of information with anyone else?”

Stay Positive: There’s enough negativity in the world today, and there’s plenty of pessimism circling about our daily lives, so instead of wallowing and fueling that negative energy, live a more positive life. Because let’s face it, being insincere and a downer is a quite a drag to be around and let’s not forget the old adage “like attracts like,” meaning the more positive that you are, the more positive people will be drawn to you. Eventually you and all of your new friends (and maybe a few converted old ones that you inspire) will be so busy being positive that you won’t have any time for gossip.

Keep Your Friends Close: No, we’re not going to finish this with “and your enemies closer,” because that would go completely against what we just told you not do right before this. If your social circle is comprised of individuals who thrive and relish in gossiping, then maybe it’s time you reevaluate who you’re confiding and socializing with. If they all talk bad about each other, then a day hasn’t gone by that you haven’t been the topic of conversation when your back has been turned. Keeping in mind the idea of “like attracts like,” take a moment to think about whether or not you are feeding into your friends negative behavior. Our friends are usually a reflection of some facets of ourselves, so if you are turned off by your circle’s rampant gossiping, chances are you are playing more of a part in perpetuating this behavior than you’d care to admit. Clean up your own house first, and by doing so you just may inspire your friends to clean up theirs.

Change Topics: Okay, so finding a new group of friends or changing your current groups behavior may be more of a long-term project, but a short-term solution is to try nipping gossip in the bud when it starts to happen. The second people start trash-talking someone (even if it is a complete stranger or a celebrity for all that matters), flip the script and stay firm when you do it. If others get combative, explain that gossiping isn’t something you like to partake in; it’s something more suited for middle school lunch rooms, not real life adults with water bills and jobs to do. Lead by example (and then drop the mic).

The Water Cooler: We realize that not every office or business-like setting may have an actual water cooler where people stand around a gossip, but it’s something that occurs in break rooms, out back while people have a smoke break and unfortunately, on the salon floor. Salon professionals are in a unique position. You are equal parts beautician, therapist and friend. Clients can and should feel safe confiding in their stylist and as we said in the beginning, there is a fine line between bouncing ideas off of one another and “getting things off your chest” and idle gossip. Keep it professional. Talk shop, give him/her styling advice, explain what you’re doing and why. Educate them and show them every reason why you’re the person they should continue to keep seeing every 4-6 weeks. If they want to talk marriage problems, ask for parenting advice, how to deal with a controlling mother-in-law or back-stabbing bestie, then let them and listen. Usually, people going through a difficult situation just need to talk about it and know that someone is listening. If you feel like the tirade is going from constructive and therapeutic to straight gossip, it is easy to politely interrupt her and say, “Karen, I want to show you something here real quick. See how your hair does this or why your color is like that? Here’s why and how we can change this.” You can then follow your calculated interruption with a question that has nothing to do with anyone else’s personal affairs and take control of the conversation.

And for the business owners/managers out there, who have to battle gossiping employees on a daily basis, enforce a strict “no gossip” policy amongst the staff. That means no gossiping between each other, and surely none of it occurring on or in front of guests and clients.

Even though partaking and performing the act of gossip has become an everyday thing, it surely does not mean that it is something we, as society, need to nurture and embrace. If we all take a stance on it and recognize the damage it causes (not just on others, but how it is a reflection on our own character), we can make a difference. It takes a bit of discipline and restraint, but in the long run, more meaningful, informative and enlightening conversations will happen in its place. And if you must, must gossip and share that little juicy bit of news you just heard, write it down in a journal. Better yet, get a cat and tell it to Fluffy. Just don’t tell the dog. We all know dogs can never keep a secret.


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