“Can you believe what Julie said to Sarah?” “How can Jamie be getting married at such a young age? She knows nothing about love, plus can she even afford it?” “We all know that Carrie is only doing this because her mom made her.” “Since when does Tammy hang out with Jeff?”
Do any of those conversations sounds familiar? Perhaps the names and topics are a bit off, but the concept of gossiping cannot be foreign to any of us. We all know someone who gossips. It could be you, a friend, your mom, your cousin, a coworker, a neighbor, the list goes on and on. No matter what, there is bound to be at least one person who gossips in your life.
Much like a piece of chocolate, gossip is hard to simply ignore when it is right in front of your face. I am guilty of it. I can almost guarantee that you are too. Yes… that means you too, boys. You are not exempt from reading this blog because guys gossip just as much as women do.
Most of the time, the person who is engaging in gossip will claim they are “venting.” But are they really? How can we differentiate gossiping from venting? When is it okay to vent? When is it okay to gossip? With whom should you be disclosing your thoughts and feelings? At what point have we taken gossiping too far?
I will start with the first question. “But are they really venting?” I would bet that 9 times out of 10… they are not venting. How can you tell? Well, first, consider who is speaking with you. Does this person often complain about other people? Does this person put people down in conversations? How frequently does this person “vent?” I could provide over 100 questions to ask in order to help you determine if this person is likely to gossip or vent. The point is, consider who you are speaking with and if he/she will put you in a situation where you are stuck gossiping, not venting.
Next, “How can we differentiate gossiping from venting?” Aside from considering the person speaking to me, I listen for the focus of the conversation. Think of it this way, if he/she is focused on putting down the other person, they are NOT venting. To put it even more simply: Venting = thoughts/feelings on the situation, with hopes to find a solution. Gossiping = thoughts/feelings about the person, with hopes to put them down. Here is another way to explain it: Gossiping tends to focus on the other party. Venting typically focuses on the person talking. For example, if I was upset at how my best friend, Tori, did not invite me to get coffee with her and another gal pal, I could either A. Discuss how crappy of a friend she is for doing that, or B. Discuss how that made me feel left out. Which sounds worse? The answer is option A. (Thanks for being my example, Tor, haha!)
Sometimes it can be hard to resist saying what we may be thinking deep down. Sure, maybe Tori was a jerk for not inviting me, but instead of adding to the issue by speaking about her in a negative manner to a third party (gossiping), I could express my feelings in a productive way and receive advice on how to approach the issue (venting).
It is really important to understand the difference between the two. You can say you are venting all you want… but you must actually vent, not gossip. When I vent to a friend or family member, my intention is to receive advice/help. Not always, but sometimes, that person can provide me with helpful tips to deal with the issue at hand. When gossiping, there is no intent for help. The intent is to make the other person look bad. In a perfect world, everyone would be able to understand the difference between gossiping and venting…
“When is it okay to vent?” This question is tough to answer. I say this because you must be sure you are venting, not gossiping, before engaging in conversation. However, if you truly want to complain about how something made you feel and not complain about the particular something or someone, then I say vent away. ***Remember this: You do not want to throw a pity party. Here is another example… if your best friend is consistently causing you pain, instead of venting to another friend, it may be time to start a discussion with your bestie. At some point, she needs to understand that her actions are hurting you. Do yourself, and your other friends, a favor by skipping the middle man. Your other friends will probably tell you the same thing I am right now: TALK TO *INSERT BEST FRIEND’S NAME HERE*!
“When is it okay to gossip?” Uh, how about NEVER! But, let’s be honest… gossip will not go away anytime soon. So, I will answer realistically. It is never okay to gossip. However, IF you feel the need to get feelings off your chest, I suggest writing it down in a safe place for your eyes and your eyes only. Be careful, though. You never know who will snoop around and read your thoughts. Another suggestion, that is safer, is to speak with a counselor/therapist/psychologist. Legally, they cannot disclose what you’ve said in his/her office. This can allow you to get those thought demons off your chest without bringing another friend in on the issue.
“With whom should you be disclosing your thoughts and feelings?” I kind of answered this above. But, I will say it again all in one space. If you need to vent, choose a person who will not add fuel to the fire. Choose someone who wants to fix the issue rather than adding to it. If you need to gossip, write it down for yourself or speak with someone who is (in no way) affiliated with the person you want to gossip about. I prefer not to condone gossiping at all, but I understand that we are human and sometimes we need to get things off our chests. Personally, I would share my thoughts with a therapist or counselor. Involving others can get messy. So why do it?
“At what point have we taken gossiping too far?” Honestly, the act of gossiping, in and of itself, is taking things “too far.” If you have nothing nice to say, don’t say it at all. That’s a classic piece of advice I think we all forget when we graduate on to middle school.
Consider this: When you are listening to someone gossip, what goes through your mind? If you are think those things, imagine what they are thinking when you are gossiping to them. Just for fun, here are a few thoughts that have gone through my mind when I have listened to gossip in the past. My very own thoughts opened my eyes to how gossip adds to the problem instead of resolving it.
“Does she seriously think I am not going to tell *insert person’s name here* about this conversation? Because I am going to call them when I get to my car.”
“Why does this person think I care about his/her issues with *insert name here*?”
“He/She sounds like a complete ass right now… If only he/she could hear the words coming out of his/her mouth.”
“And he/she calls him/herself *insert name here’s* best friend? I hope my best friend doesn’t speak about me this way.”
My personal favorite thought: “I can’t wait to tell David this… he called it.” LOL!
We have all been guilty of gossip at one time or another. We have to rise up against it. Try hard to keep conversations at a venting level. Seek advice about situations. Do not seek to harm a person by maliciously attacking them when they are not present to defend themselves. Women especially need to stick together. This is something I have to remind myself every single day. It can be hard when you hear/see another woman saying or doing something so cruel. Women, so often, pit other women against each other. Be the bigger person. *Currently reminding myself this exact piece of advice as I am typing*
Steer clear of gossip. If you feel someone is about to unload a gossip bomb on you, kindly ask them to think before they speak. Remind them that you are NOT going to engage in the conversation if it has malicious intent. If they cannot respect that, are they even worth keeping around? If they are quick to say something about another person to you, think about what they say behind your back. I broke up with so many friends for this exact reason. I have also mended a lot of relationships because of this issue. Cross someone off the list if you are not willing to make this change for the sake of your friendship. Maybe you (or they) deserve better.
In the face-off between gossiping vs. venting, the winner is… NEITHER! Really, we should avoid all negative talk when it comes to another person. Eleanor Roosevelt said it best, “Great minds discuss ideas; Average minds discuss events; And small minds discuss people.”
Positive Intentions > Negative Intentions