What do I do if someone is gossiping about me?
by Jacquie Wise
I wonder how many people would have nothing to talk about beyond gossiping about everyone else.
Not all chatter about you is gossip though. Exchanging news about you shows people are interested in what you’re doing, as long as it’s without malice. If the person saying things about you would be embarrassed if you caught them saying it, then it’s gossip.
Gossip usually includes an element of criticism or ridicule.
Sometimes, gossip starts off as an innocent whinge about someone to a friend.
That friend may share their whinge with the same person, and before you know it, it turns into a full-scale character assassination.
Some people engage in malicious gossip because they lack self-esteem and need to compete. The only way they can feel equal or superior, is by bringing someone else down, often behind their back.
Or the only way the gossip can be popular is by generating spicy gossip about others, and each time the story gets told, it gets distorted a little more.
The danger about gossip is that facts can be twisted so easily and reputations seriously damaged, even if that wasn’t the original intent.
People say ‘There’s no smoke without fire’. Yes, but was it a gossiper who lit the first match?
How to handle it: To begin with, if you know for sure someone is gossiping about you, don’t make things worse by complaining to someone else about it.
It’s best to approach the gossiper directly, in a private setting, and say something like: ‘I can sense you’re unhappy with me/don’t like what I’m doing… and you might have been letting off steam to others. I’d like to discuss this with you directly so that we can sort out our differences without dragging anyone else into it and making others feel uncomfortable.’
Of course, the gossiper is quite likely to deny that they’re gossiping. They may even be genuinely unaware that what they’re doing is classified as gossip.
What if someone else has told you that they have heard gossip about you? If the gossiper asks you how you found out, never, ever reveal who told you. This puts your source in an uncomfortable position when all they were trying to do was warn you. Just be vague and say ‘I’ve heard different things from different people’.
So, if that approach doesn’t work, or you don’t know who it is, another approach would be to say to the group you suspect are talking about you: ‘If I’ve upset someone I would like to think you’d be honest enough to talk to me directly…’
Or: ‘I know there are rumours circulating about me and if anyone wants to know the truth, please ask me personally. If you aren’t able to do that, then I’d prefer that you didn’t circulate the wrong information behind my back.’
Another option is that you can take a light-hearted approach. That’s what I learnt to do early on, when people have gossiped about me in the past. If people are talking about me, it means I’m interesting enough to talk about!
In fact, I learnt to say to the gossipers: ‘Oh, thank you for talking about me—I didn’t realise I was so fascinating to you!’
If they were trying to hurt or embarrass me, I showed them that I found the whole thing amusing and trivial.
It was fun watching them going various shades of grey to green.
I’d love to know what you think of what I’ve said here.
You can give me your feedback, ask a question by email or post a comment below.
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