Tag Archives: rumors

How To Respond To Malicious Gossip

Click on the picture below to watch the short video:

Malicious gossip is negative and brings everyone down. This video includes several examples of ways to respond to someone rumor mongering and gossiping maliciously.

Malicious gossip can involve maligning another person and making hurtful negative judgments or the spreading of sensitive or confidential information. If you gossip a lot, you will attract other people who like to spread rumors and thus don’t have much of interest going on in their lives. Distorting information, talking “dirt”, and bringing other people down will affect your life negatively.

How do you respond to unwelcome gossip?

First of all, you don’t want to encourage gossip with curiosity and further questions. Nor is it necessary to become overly hostile and angry at the gossiper.

1. You can have empathy for the person being gossiped about. Take the other person’s side and show compassion.

2. Respond with humor.

3. Change the subject.

4. Turn the tables and focus your attention on the gossiper and what’s going on in his or her life. For example, “You seem to want to talk about who Susie is sleeping with. How about we talk about who you’re sleeping with!”

5. Be direct. Say you’re uncomfortable talking negatively about other people.

6. Finally, you can avoid persistent gossipers and leave.

While harmless gossip is fine, malicious gossip is not inspiring and does not enhance people’s lives. Freeing yourself from malicious gossip will give you more time to enjoy life or to talk about more interesting subjects.

by Dr. Alison Poulsen

Watch “How to distinguish between harmless and malicious gossip” https://www.youtube.com/my_videos?o=U.

by Alison Poulsen, PhD

Watch “Distinguishing Harmless from Malicious Gossip.”

What to do when people gossip about you.

"Approach - Rory McIlroy" by Mimi Stuart ©

“Approach – Rory McIlroy” by Mimi Stuart ©

“I know people who seem nice but gossip about me behind my back. They are such hypocrites, it’s depressing. Being confrontational hasn’t worked.”

Rise above the fray. Don’t allow yourself to dwell on the petty gossip that many people participate in, whether they are gossiping about you or others.

People often gossip out of boredom or envy. Thus, Oscar Wilde said, The only thing worse than being talked about is not being talked about.

This is one of the situations in life where you must create a mental barrier around your feelings. If you become confrontational, fearful, or humiliated by gossip, you increase your vulnerability and give those who gossip power over you. Ignore them and you take away their power. Don’t be hostile, but don’t allow yourself to dwell on what they are saying.

Focus on more positive, interesting people and activities. There are many people in this world who have adequate self-worth and are too busy living their lives to have any time or desire for malicious gossip. Keep your eye out for these people and find activities that you are passionate about.

If you have to engage with people who are prone to gossip, maintain a casual, even somewhat friendly but unconcerned attitude. Convey a lack of interest in what they are saying by simply ignoring them, but avoid acting superior. Thus, you will maintain your dignity and inner strength without giving up your power or provoking more hostility.

Above all, the best way to stay above the banality of scandal-mongering is to maintain a sense of humor, as expressed by Vanna Bonta’s attitude:

Gossip can be entertaining: occasionally, I’ve heard the most fascinating things about myself I never knew.

by Dr. Alison Poulsen

Ten reasons not to spread rumors

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

“Perception” by Mimi Stuart ©
Live the Life you Desire

Telling provocative stories about other people will get you attention. Yet spreading unverified information will cause harm to you in ways that may not be immediately evident.

There are ten harmful effects to people who spread rumors and perpetrate malicious gossip:

1. You prove you are not trustworthy. When people hear you speculating about other people or spreading rumors, they know that you are likely to talk about them behind their back as well.

2. You appeal to busybodies. You will be fostering relationships with an uninspiring group of people. Individuals who listen to rumor mongering do not have a lot going on in their lives and will not be interesting themselves.

3. You hurt others. Spreading rumors damages other people’s reputation without being based on substantiated fact. You can destroy people’s self-confidence, their careers, and even their lives.

4. You feel dirty. The attention may feel good while listeners are gripped by your salacious story, but soon thereafter it won’t feel good when you realize you’ve damaged someone’s reputation.

5. You waste time focusing on hearsay. The time spent talking about others could have been used to do something more productive or inspiring.

6. You lose your credibility. When you exaggerate or spread unverified gossip, people will stop believing what you say.

7. You feel pressure to satisfy a never-ending thirst for more rumor-mongering. You will need to come up with more stories to pique the jaded or prurient interest of your listeners, which further pressures you to exaggerate or spread hearsay.

8. You push interesting people away. People with productive or interesting lives are generally repelled by rumor mongers, and will start avoiding you once they figure out your MO.

9. You lose sight of your own interests. The attention you’re getting is not in response to your more positive talents, skills and efforts, but the salacious gossip you mete out. What you focus on in life is what develops. So your more positive qualities diminish into the background.

10. You demean yourself. You degrade yourself by showing a lack of integrity when you choose to spread unverified information.


It’s natural to be curious about other people’s lives, to spread factual or verifiable news about others, and to discuss human behavior to gain insight into our own lives and the lives of others. Yet spreading rumors, which are not verified facts, generally diminishes your life and the lives of those around you.

by Dr. Alison Poulsen

Watch “How to distinguish harmless gossip from malicious gossip.”

Read “Gossip: ‘What else did you hear?’”

Watch “How to respond to malicious gossip.”

How to Distinguish Harmless From Malicious Gossip

Talking about other people is natural. Sometimes though, talking about others brings everyone down. How do we distinguish harmless from malicious gossip? And why do people partake in malicious gossip?

by Alison Poulsen, PhD

Watch “How To Respond To Malicious Gossip.”

Read “Gossip vs. Honesty: ‘It is better to be honest and realistic than to pretend everyone is such an angel when they are not.'”

Gossip: “I can’t stand malicious gossip, but sometimes I end up participating in it!”

 "Peace - Buddha" by Mimi Stuart © Live the Life you Desire

“Peace – Buddha” by Mimi Stuart ©
Live the Life you Desire

It’s normal to be intrigued by the enthralling and sometimes unfortunate situations that people we know might find themselves in. However, when spreading news turns into an opportunity to delight in someone else’s misfortune, to malign someone, or to get attention, people involved in listening and spreading the gossip tend to feel dirty afterwards.

When you sense that news is turning into Schadenfreude—feeling happy about someone else’s misfortune—then it is time to take action and change the direction of the conversation or terminate your involvement completely.

When faced with gossipmongering, you can:

1. Change the subject: Steer the conversation in the direction of the gossiper. “How’s your work going?” “How’s your husband doing?”

2. Use humor: Humor is a great way to deflect prying questions. Keep a positive, light-hearted attitude and suggest that nobody is perfect.

3. Empathize with the victim: “Let’s take a look at it from his side.” People who gossip are often used to getting others’ attention and agreement. They might be taken aback, and stop, if you defend the person being slandered.

4. Insinuate a light reprimand: “Let’s talk about something more positive and decide what we’re going to do this afternoon.” Such a statement implies disapproval, but is softened with an alternative topic of discussion.

5. Be direct: “I feel uncomfortable enjoying someone else’s adversity. Let’s not gossip about people unless we’re trying to help them.” This is direct and can be said to people who can handle honest criticism, or when gossip is particularly malicious.

6. Avoid the gossiper: As a last resort, if you can’t stop immature or malicious gossip, avoid the gossiper all together.

by Alison Poulsen, PhD

Watch “Distinguishing Harmless from Malicious Gossip.”

Watch “How To Respond To Malicious Gossip.”

Read “Gossip vs. Honesty: ‘It is better to be honest and realistic than to pretend everyone is such an angel when they are not?’”

Read “Gossip: ‘What else did you hear?’”

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.”