The habit of speaking ill of others and gossiping

Do you speak ill of others, and do others speak ill of you? This is a very common problem in people’s’ day to day life! Let’s use our conscious reflection to assess whether this habit is intelligent and what its consequences are.

Have you noticed how happy people avoid talking badly about others? It seems that they simply don’t feel like it’s something that they need to do.

Basically, we all know how damaging it can be to devote a great deal of time to speaking ill of others. It’s generally considered a bad practice, but many people continue to do it. You don’t personally get much from it, it causes sadness and puts us at risk, because when we’re found out … the consequences are disastrous.

Many people believe that they’ll never get caught gossiping about others. But practice shows that sooner or later, the gossiper will be discovered, and of course the confrontation is never pleasant.

Why do people speak ill of others?

Where there are people, there is communication. Within the possibilities of communication, there is both the desire to speak well and speak badly. This curse can in some cases also simply be called gossiping. The internet ends up amplifying the power of gossip with fake profiles, fake news, messages intentionally created to cause damage. Why does it happen?

Here are the six main reasons:

1. To feel part of a group. 

People gossip to feel like they belong to a group. They use speaking badly of people as a way to undermine rivals and establish alliances. When two people speak ill of a third, they form a kind of alliance. To gossip is to try to be inside of possible attacks of opponents. Gossip is also a weapon both to attack, but it can also be seen as a kind of self defence mechanism. We have identified a common enemy. We speak ill of a third party and create an identity. The enemy unites us.

2. To feel superior. 

People who don’t feel good about themselves feel temporarily better when they judge others negatively. One motivation in speaking badly of others is for the participants in the conversation to feel better about their own insecurities. We project our insecurities onto others. We point out vices or problems of people who aren’t a part of the conversation. They usually look for flaws and failures of others, in an attempt to disguise, to focus or even stop thinking about their own faults.

3. Because of envy.

 Envy can be described as a sort of jealousy for the success of the other. Overwhelmed by this sadness, envious people are led to have attitudes to ward off or eliminate this bad feeling. One way to do this is to speak ill of the person that they’re envious of, in an attempt to diminish their qualities. That is, people gossip to harm those whose popularity, talents or lifestyle they envy.

4. To get out of boredom or as a cry for attention.

 When people fail to generate interesting discussions based on knowledge or ideas, gossip can spark people’s interest. A person comes to be the centre of attention temporarily while they gossip. In social networks, for example, it’s a way of hitching a ride on the popularity of others. Ever notice how a video or a post talking badly about some celebrity ends up attracting more attention?

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5. For prejudices and intolerance to what is different. 

Gossip rests on prejudice. It establishes an acceptable behaviour model and attacks a different behaviour. In order to avoid feeling guilty, they adopt the well-known saying “I’m not prejudiced,” and almost always after that phrase, comes the classic “but”, which is actually the opening for a biased phrase.

6. For a lack of awareness and reflection. 

I’m not necessarily saying that people who gossip are malicious. A lot of the time, we end up falling into the trap of speaking badly about people without even noticing. However, gossiping unthinkingly can be quite dangerous. When we have a low level of consciousness, we don’t reflect on our own words, we don’t question the truth of the facts. And, unfortunately, this lack of clarity can even bring consequences that are devastating and irreparable to those who we’re gossiping about. We need to be very careful about this, because when we speak ill of others we reveal much more about ourselves than about the people who are the targets of our gossip.

The three major negative effects of gossip in your life

1. Other people will speak ill of you. 

One of the worst effects of gossip is that it will come back to bite you, as the people around you may feel like you deserve a taste of your own medicine. If you’re gossiping about another person at the same time, someone else may feel that it’s acceptable to gossip about you too. They’re probably the same people you’re sharing the gossip with. Treat others the way you want to be treated.

2. Gossip isolates you.

 People won’t trust you, they’ll be hurt by your actions, and they won’t feel comfortable sharing the details of their lives with you. Of course, people will continue to talk to you and you’ll still have friends. But if you become known as the person who constantly gossips, people will avoid having a real connection with you. Friends will talk to you, but they may hesitate before saying anything serious. Especially if they know that it’s something that you’ll probably gossip about later. Coworkers and family members can also stop telling you anything they fear might get spread around.

3. Gossip isn’t always true. 

By gossiping about something and spreading rumours, you might be sustaining the lies.

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Learn to avoid gossip with these six principles:

As the habit of speaking badly of others harms our life, our relationships and also harms the life of others, we must learn to improve our communication and avoid this habit. Use these six principles to help you avoid gossiping:

1. Learn the difference between useful communication and gossip. 

There are times in life when it’s genuinely useful for you to know the personal history or personal details of a friend’s life. For example, if you’re thinking about starting a business with them or hiring them. If they’ve asked you for some advice in making a decision, it might also be useful to have a bit of background knowledge. If there’s no purpose behind the conversation, someone starts sharing intimate details of someone else’s life, and you’re not in a position to help, it’s not a useful conversation.

2. Stop before you start. 

If the conversation starts to turn into gossip, stop and resume your level of awareness. You don’t need to accuse the other person of speaking badly of others, because the conversation might become defensive or aggressive. Just use a simple phrase like, “I’d rather not have this conversation, how about we talk about …” and change the focus by seeking meaningful conversation about the people who are present. In the latter case, you can always remain silent.

3. Look for humility and avoid pride. 

Gossip makes us feel better about ourselves because it’s a relief to remember the fact that other people also have problems. Stop comparing yourself to others. Be humble and remember that no one is better than anyone else. Don’t let your ego and your pride feed your need for comparison and put other people down.

4. Keep your speech positive. 

Use positive words as much as possible, even when talking about another. Speaking positively about a person who isn’t present rarely leads to gossip and almost always leads to a productive conversation. This positive speech will also encourage the people around you to do the same.

5. Seek to improve the things that you can control. 

Don’t waste time talking badly about others. Dedicate your time, your thoughts and your words to what you can control, which is your own life. Keep your focus on being the best possible version of yourself. Work on your insecurities without comparing yourself to others, and without wasting time on comments and observations about the characteristics and behaviours of others.

6. Avoid toxic relationships. 

Avoid people that are constantly speaking ill of others. Surround yourself with happy, optimistic people who see the positive side of life, not people who bring everyone (and even themselves) down. A person who speaks ill of others to you probably speaks ill of you to others. Is this the kind of friendship or relationship you want to have? Maybe it’s time to re-evaluate the situation.

Increase your awareness and reflect on the quality of your communication. Think about how you would feel if you heard someone saying negative and hateful words about you. Speaking badly about other people translates into a focus on negativity and living life through a pessimistic and critical perspective.

Your most precious and limited resource is time. Don’t waste it getting involved with dramas and arguments. Take care of your integrity and good reputation by not participating in the habit of speaking badly of others.

Avoid creating labels and caricatures that encourage you to speak ill of others. Remember that we all have complex stories and that there’s always two sides to a story. If you ever find that negative thoughts arise in your mind towards someone, you need to focus on thinking about some of the positives. If someone encourages you to talk about negative things and gossip about someone, try to find something good to say about the other person. Even if you don’t find it right away, you always have the choice to remain silent rather than speak ill of others.

If you’re being victimised by situations where others speak ill of you, you must know how to confront the situation by setting healthy limits. You don’t have to be nervous or lose your temper. Just communicate with assertiveness. You can learn how to do this in our How To Say No communication training. Visit this link here.