As social beings we must experience interactions with others. The intention, obviously, is to make these interactions rewarding and fulfilling. Encounters that feed the soul. But what happens when an interaction or action, something you say or do in the company of one person gets passed on in a modified form in someone else's interactions down the track. When you make the choice to be vulnerable and share something precious, or you make a comment that is misinterpreted or clouded with the listeners own baggage and insecurities and it then gets passed on out of context or insensitively. Or worse still, if something gets passed on as fact when it is not an action you have taken or comment you have made.
The general term for this is gossip and it can be particularly toxic in small communities (be they small towns, work environments, school groups etc).
A number of readers have shared their experiences of the damage caused by gossip and it is something I have had the misfortune of having to endure first hand. It can cause untold damage to personal wellbeing, to relationships, to the fabric of the community in which it resides.
Its presence is obvious, its impact is far reaching, the answer is not so clear. To stamp it out requires vigilance. A constant awareness of how you treat information, how you listen and how you share. It requires care in the selection of your words. Why are you saying what you are saying? Are you passing on this information in order to benefit another or will it cause harm? If you have heard something about another that does not paint them in a good light take the time to let them know, allow the accused to share their truth.
One of the most painful elements of my experience with gossip was that I knew people were talking about me without anywhere near all the information they required to do so, but I was never given the opportunity to fill in the gaps or provide the truth. In hindsight I should have spoken to those I knew were talking behind my back and provided them the opportunity to ask me questions and to challenge me on what they were hearing so that they could address whatever fear or insecurity they were hiding from in making the issue mine.
But that is hard to do, especially when you are in a place of pain and rejection.
Another tool is to do unto others. If you hear stories about others, let them know. Ask them if they are ok. Be a safe ear for them. Again, hard to do, but surely worth it.
This topic forms a large part of the book I am writing so I would be really grateful if readers would share their thoughts and experiences with me. Please comment below or private message me firstname.lastname@example.org