Over the time I’ve been in Birmingham on my Black Girl Sabbatical, I’ve linked up with a lot of my friends and in the midst of the reunions and sets, the conversations always lead to how someone from back in the day is doing, if I’ve heard about what happened to this person or that, and lots of random factoids about other people’s lives.
For the most part, the conversations have been mild and pretty non-judgmental. It’s been nice hearing about people doing well and making moves.
There is a situation that has been the topic of discussion among most of my comrades that, unfortunately, contains the ingredients for the perfect soap opera. I won’t go into the details of the situation because, well it’s messy and it equals gossip and the point of this piece is to say gossip is whack, but I digress. Anyway, the situation has been a cause for ruckus because it’s been the source of rifts in a community of people that were once very close knit. The true character of some people started to show and for some, it’s been too much. A situation that could’ve served as a lesson for a lot of people devolved very quickly into something out of a tabloid. And it sucks.
I’ve been able to remain pretty detached from the situation enough to not take on the concerns of the people involved, but I found myself repeating to a dear friend some of the unsavory specifics. I started the thought with, “I’m not trying to gossip here” and we all know the law of the disclaimer (I just made that up, so give me the credit when you use that later lol): if you disclaim something at the beginning of the statement, then it’s very likely that the statement that you’re about to make is exactly what you just disclaimed it not to be. Back to the story, I started sharing the deats and halfway through my spew session, I felt the unethical nature of what I was doing. I became aware of the bull crap I was stirring and I felt bad. Like, “stomach hurt” bad. Like, “I can’t be the empowerment advocate I want to be if I’m engaging in this type of convo” bad and I needed to stop. So I did.
That conversation stayed on my mind for days after the fact and it made me really consider how gossiping is so normal and acceptable that there are media outlets that thrive and make millions and millions of dollars off of it. What troubles me more is that there are everyday people who gossip so much that they wear the label of being a “hearsay peddler” that they wear the badge with pride and they usually have cosigners. I’m not judging those people, but it does explain why there are so many unsatisfied, unfulfilled people walking around.
I heard an elder teacher say, some years back, that people focus on other’s issues because they’re too afraid to deal with their own. In my line of work, that sentiment is more than exemplified and it’s easy to get sucked into conversation that seems innocent enough, but turns into a bashing session. To be that way seems to be draining and counterproductive.
I’m here to say this: the Universe, God, or whatever name you have for the Most High, hears EVERYTHING we say and responds without emotion. If you talk about how one person has too many baby daddies in a judgmental way, then best believe you will eventually find yourself in a tough position either with your baby daddy(ies), or even difficulties with managing multiple, difficult relationships with people who have an impact on your life. If you assume and spread rumors about how someone gets their money, then you’re setting yourself up to have money problems sooner rather than later. Honestly, it’s just not worth the time or energy.
I’ve been fortunate enough to be around people who have mastered the art of politely removing themselves from scenes of gossip, and they’ve shared with me the gift of “detached engagement”. It’s a simple concept: you allow a person to speak with you and tell you their point of view without you internalizing or becoming overly empathetic. Keeping the matter at arms length keeps you from making unnecessary comments which ultimately becomes gossip. This method of avoiding slanderous conversations works pretty well if you’re uncomfortable with the next option. The other way of steering away from gossip is simple as well: tell the other person to shut up. Be clear that you don’t want to hear gossip and that you aren’t willing to participate because it only makes your life unhappy. It’s not easy to do that if you’re afraid of a reaction, but the truth is, there’s nothing like clarity around your preferences and no one can say you didn’t tell them. It can also become a teaching moment for you and that person or people (each on, teach one). They may not realize the damage it does to the person they’re talking about and ultimately the damage they’re doing to themselves.
Aside from the damage of gossip to all of the parties involved, no one has time for that shit. We’re currently living in the middle of a revolution because of race and class, and secretive, sneaky behavior has no place in a circumstance that requires transparency and clarity.
How do you handle gossipers in your life? Have you felt the affects of your own gossiping? Let me know what you think.