Why don’t we practice the old rule, “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all?” I thought that was a fair rule that had positive impact on both sides of the conversation. Now, it is so common to talk badly about other people, that it is a rarity to have conversation without gossip. We complain about our families, our friends and our co-workers, but not to their faces. We go to work to talk about our spouses. We go home and complain about our boss and co-workers, and our poor friends get to hear about all of it. I decided to see what would happen when I refused to talk bad about others. What I noticed was, the world is a lot quieter when gossip is removed from conversation.
For this experiment, I needed some rules. I didn’t want to pretend that I wasn’t upset if I was. I needed a way to positively express myself. First rule was I was allowed to acknowledge if somebody was legitimately upset. Also, I could admit if I myself was upset. The second rule was I had to turn the conversation positive. Rule three was if a group of people were talking badly about somebody that wasn’t there, I would physically remove myself from the area. Rule four – speaking positively about somebody was permitted and encouraged.
I thought this would be a fun and interesting experiment but I never imagined just how much it would change me. On the first day, it was very quiet. If somebody was brought up in a bad way, I just acknowledged their concerns and went on my way. Not too interesting, but positive, nonetheless. Over the course of the next week, though, I noticed some fun changes. I made it a point to counter gossip with positivity or empathy. Again, I acknowledged their concerns, but then also pointed out what she may be going through, something positive she did, or something I did that wasnt that great. This shows that i feel for the other person, see her good points, and show that I have no right to gossip, because I am not perfect. Pretty soon, the group was showing empathy instead of anger.
The real test was when I got upset and a few people were around to notice. They immediately wanted to console me by backstabbing the guy who hurt me. It did take a lot of self control to not jump in and join them. But, I remembered my mission. I knew this was going to be a huge test for me. Instead, I admitted I was upset. I didn’t deny it or downplay it. I was very upset. I put the emphasis on me. I am upset, not HE hurt me. I took responsibility for my feelings. Then, I repeated what a good friend told me. We all are doing the best we can. We aren’t all at the same place in life. We’ve all gone through different experiences and have different resources. Therefore, we do the best we can with the resources we have. The conversation turned from anger to seeing this man’s potential.
The last thing I did was positive gossip. Did you see the boss’s sweater? He looks really nice today. Did you see how much work the morning crew did? I’m impressed! My husband cleaned the kitchen and it looks beautiful! Doesn’t my sister look radiant? That pregnancy glow isn’t a myth! This kind of talk adds a lightness and good vibe to the room. I am a believer that like attracts like and talking great about each other just makes for a lighter atmosphere.
What I took away from this experience is
1. If somebody is willing to gossip to you about somebody else, you can bet they are also gossiping about you.
2. If you take yourself out of the equation and just look at the person you’re talking about, you will probably find more good than bad.
3. Everyone has personal issues.
4. Nobody is perfect.
5. The majority of people don’t want to hurt anybody. Stop taking things personally (i.e. someone calls in sick to work doesn’t mean they are purposefully trying to make you have a bad day).
6. Conversation minus gossip leaves room for more meaningful conversations and deeper friendships.
I’m calling success on the anti-gossip experience. When you talk to a person rather than about her, it creates a deeper level of understanding. You get to see where she is coming from and why she does the things she does. This is an experience I will continue to practice in my everyday life.
I wish you all a wonderful day.