People who gossip are like people who don’t know how to care about others’ feelings, but the good news is that there are at least 7 ways to respond to them. According to Yale University researcher, we spend at least 60% of our adult conversations talking about people who are not with us at the time.
Spending time pointing out others’ flaws when they aren’t there to defend themselves is not a positive way to have a conversation. Rather than wasting time on negative talk, let’s look at some ways that you can respond to people who gossip.
7 Ways to Respond to People Who Gossip
Gossipers are people who do not have the best interests of others at heart. They say the mean things that no one else will say. The hurt they inflict is often unknown by the object of their gossip but it hurts the rest of us who hear it.
Gossip is a negative conversation, usually with bad intentions, that is spread by others and it is a source of much hatred in our society. When we gossip about others, we belittle their worth to increase our own. Speaking at the expense of our fellow man only makes the people who gossip look smaller in our eyes.
Talking about others is not always gossip, but when the talk turns negative, look for ways to bring it back to a positive focus that is not belittling to others.
1. Talk about your openness to people from diverse backgrounds
Yale researchers believe that gossip may serve a function for us socially. We hear tales about other people and their struggles and by hearing these stories, we learn about what types of behavior are acceptable, and what types of behavior are not acceptable to those in our social groups.
When you deal with a gossiper, rather than continuing to pile on to the conversation about someone’s bad points, let the gossiper know that you are very accepting of others, no matter their appearance, or whatever the gossip was commenting on. Talk about the skills and abilities of the person who is being gossiped about.
2. Boost the self-esteem of the gossip with something you like about them
People who gossip may talk badly about others because they lack self-esteem or self-worth. People who gossip say bad things about other people to make themselves feel better by comparison.
Remind the person who is gossiping about something good that they did for another person. This will remind them of their kind heart and to make them feel better about themselves. The positive shift in perspective could be enough of a change in how they feel about themselves to get them to stop gossiping.
3. Talk about cultural differences
When a person gossips about someone from another culture, it may be because they do not understand their customs. Not understanding leads to curiosity, but that level of interest can just as easily be misplaced by gossip, which includes negative statements about the other person. Gossip can easily turn into racist remarks when you use negative statements about the person’s heritage.
One effective way to respond to people who gossip in this way is to point out other cultural differences that you are aware of and which are positive. Remind the gossiper about the diverse world that they are a part of where we have pizza, tacos, hummus, hamburgers, and latkes all peacefully coexisting.
4. Say how it makes you feel
Even researchers disagree on definitions for gossip. Mostly they have come to the conclusion that we know it when we hear it. A Yale University review said ‘when gossip occurs within conversations, it is often very subtle, sometimes too subtle for an outside observer, such as a researcher, to decode.’ Much of gossip involves inside jokes or small details of expected behavior that go unnoticed by others. No wonder it is hard to study.
But we know how gossip makes us feel when we hear it. Maybe you feel a thrill at the thought of a secret being revealed to you about another person, or maybe you feel uncomfortable when the person who is gossiping tells you something negative about the other person.
5. Avoid having a conversation that includes gossip
‘You know, I’d love to chat but…’ might be the easiest way to respond to people who gossip. By avoiding them, you leave them without an ear to hear their negativity.
6. Confront the gossip
Another more direct way that you can respond to people who gossip is to say, ‘This conversation is starting to feel like gossip to me, which makes me uncomfortable, so let’s talk about something else.’
7. Turn the gossip into hope and help
A gossiper will tell you something horrible about another person and you can respond by saying ‘I hope you might be willing to help them feel more included in our community. What do you think you are willing to do to help?’