They say gossip hurts three people—the speaker, the listener, and the one being spoken about.
It’s probably obvious how the one being spoken about gets hurt. It might be a little less obvious how the listener gets hurt. Basically, the listener, who was probably previously unbiased, now has certain information which reshapes how he or she views a particular person or situation.
But it’s probably not at all obvious how gossip hurts the speaker. We get annoyed or hurt and all we want to do is vent. How is that really hurting us? We even tell ourselves we feel better after getting something off our chest. But, do we really feel better? We’ve only viewed the situation from one point of view—ours, and we’ve filled ourselves with a huge dose of negativity. Does that ever feel good?
That doesn’t mean we should walk around with a perpetual smile on our faces and refuse to see anything but the positive aspects of life. No, we must be realistic and we must speak the truth. And there is a place for sharing our feelings! But it’s helpful to examine the motivations behind our sharing. Are we just unloading negativity? Are we sharing our pain? Are we having a necessary provocative discussion? Are we bad-mouthing another? A good question to ask ourselves is—do I have compassion for this person, even though they have hurt me? If the answer is no, then it might be best to refrain from speaking until we do.
And gossip doesn’t only refer to that annoying friend or bad driver. We can also gossip about races, nations, religions, political parties or ideologies—you know, those people who believe those things. So next time you find yourself talking about someone or some group or even about yourself, ask yourself—am I helping or harming? And I think you’ll find that helping feel a lot better than harming.