The email from a business contact looked like a scheduling issue, so I opened it up, expecting a question on availability. Not at all, it was asking me about some gossip circulating about me. Well, as it was gossip, I won’t support it, confirm it, deny it, or discuss it. I won’t pass it on, ask where it came from, or confront the person I may ferret out if I follow it long enough.
So I phoned up the acquaintance and said, “I don’t respond to gossip, I simply move on.”
“Then it must be true, otherwise you would defend yourself,” the acquaintance said.
“Not at all,” I said. “I really hated seventh grade because I didn’t belong to the ‘cool’ group. I discovered that no matter what I did, gossip is like hot road tar–it sticks, it stains, it spreads on contact. I never learned how to make it work for me, and I always wound up getting stuck at the originator, because I was an easy target. Now that seventh grade is decades behind me, I have no desire to re-visit the bad old days.”
There was some back and forth, in which gossip originators were hinted at, and I was asked to respond. But I know what happens–the more I take the bait, the less the truth gets uncovered. Everyone I confront will deny involvement and point to someone else, wait till I’m out of earshot, and pass on another re-interpretation of what is happening.
So I’m stopping the chain of gossip. I told the acquaintance that I’d like the decision about the gossip to be made not on the gossip, but on my behavior and the satisfaction of the people who work with me.
I’m familiar with “If you don’t tell me what really happened, I’ll think what they are saying is true.”
This is gossip girl bullying at its best. It’s similar to “If you love me, you would X” or “If you don’t do X, I won’t do Y and it will be your fault.” That type of manipulative behavior solves nothing. If you participate, you are becoming a moral doormat to prove some unattainable goal of acceptance. That goal changes the instant you do what is required.
Just as you are what you eat, you become what you watch. Reality shows that encourage watching emotional, personal train wrecks and gleefully cheering, dull you to the pain of others. Those shows eventually make you want that level of excitement in your life. Watch enough of them, and it looks normal.
I’m long out of seventh grade, and I’m not cranking up the way-back machine. Gossip girls are destructive, and I’m simply not participating. Not in any way. You want to believe gossip about me? That’s between you and your brain. Me, I’ve got things to do.
–Quinn McDonald is a trainer, writer, life- and creativity coach.