I don’t advocate pretending that everyone is wonderful. It is worthwhile, however, to consider whether discussing how inane, incapable, or insufferable other people are contributes to your own life or to those around you.
Sometimes it is interesting to attempt to understand what drives other people in their self-sabotaging behavior. Yet dwelling on other people’s misfortune and stupidity will ultimately bring you down and show your lack of inner depth and sensitivity.
Most people will fall into gossip when there are eager participants. The way to tell when you have moved from curious attempts at understanding to mean-spirited gossip is when you feel a twinge of conscience — a sign that it is time to stop and re-direct the conversation.
You can change the subject with a philosophical note that suggests some compassion. For example, “Well, we can never really know the whole story.” Or “Let’s be grateful we’re not facing the same challenges.” Or “I’m sure there’s more to it than we know.” If necessary disengage from the conversation altogether.
It’s important to stay above the fray and avoid getting drawn in, because what you focus on in your conversations with others affects who you are and how you feel. Instead of trying to feel better about yourself by high-lighting others’ misfortunes, we can enhance our lives by trying to live up to people we admire. Focusing on more positive and interesting ideas and accomplishments can inspire you to improve your own life and will inspire others as well.
by Alison Poulsen, PhD