Gossip: “What else did you hear?”

"Cadence" by Mimi Stuart ©
Live the Life you Desire

Gossip is like overly salty food. We like the taste of salt, but too much of it overpowers other spices and the flavor of the food itself. We may be drawn to it, but too much can make us queasy.

Similarly, it’s human to be curious about the turn of events in other people’s lives. We imagine with wonder or trepidation what it would be like to be in their shoes when they fall in love, fall out of love, or get betrayed. How do people respond when their dreams or fears are actualized?

Excessive gossip reveals the gossiper’s deficient sense of self. The gossiper sensationalizes in an attempt to astonish people with intrigue, with the result that there’s no room for genuine understanding of the complexity of the people and situation involved. While the gossiper holds everyone’s attention for a moment, that moment is fleeting and rarely rewarding, regardless of the effort to embellish the story and prolong the gratifying moment of the listeners’ curiosity. A grain of salt turns brackish.

As compelling as intriguing rumors might be, too much scandal-mongering leaves everyone feeling un-nourished and nauseated.

How to handle gossip

We can handle gossip by moving the discussion away from the person being talked about or by changing the subject outright. Often, however, we can add depth and personal meaning to the subject by simply asking the right questions.

We can ask questions such as the following: “Have you ever experienced any kind of betrayal yourself? How would you want to handle it? Do you wish you had handled it differently?” Or “What is your greatest fear?” Or “How would you live your life if you had that much money?”

When people have to think about and expose their deeper desires and fears, they often become more sympathetic and circumspect and less judgmental. Thus, we can guide gossip — including our own — toward more meaningful conversation and greater connection.

Gossip is the art of saying nothing in a way that leaves practically nothing unsaid.

Walter Winchell

by Alison Poulsen, PhD

Watch “Distinguishing Harmless from Malicious Gossip.”

Watch “How To Respond To Malicious Gossip.”

Read “Four ways to handle gossip: ‘Oh no, I’m trapped by her gossiping again!’”

Read “Why People Gossip and How to Avoid it.”

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2 thoughts on “Gossip: “What else did you hear?”

  1. Jake

    This is an excellent tip. I will definitely use it whenever people gossiping maliciously about others. I expect them to become uncomfortable and change the topic themselves. In time they might never want to talk badly about others when in my company because I will always “point the gun at them”. In my experience, Dr Paulsen, chronic malicious gossipers don’t like people knowing their business so gossiping is a way redirecting people’s attention while still holding their attention.

    1. Alison Post author

      Yes. Thank you for your comment.

      What’s interesting is that there usually is a reason that people who gossip focus on the people they do– for example, envy or fascination about a quality because they disown the quality themselves. So redirecting toward the gossiping person usually does make them uncomfortable. If the person is wise, strong, or confident enough, he or she could self-reflect and learn from it.

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