Wednesday, August 27, 2008

To Tell or Not to Tell

After being accused of being a gossip, I’ve been thinking a lot about what actually constitutes gossip. I’m convinced it’s a combination of content and intent that brand a story about someone else as gossip.

It would seem a relationship focused solely on two people, what they are thinking about and doing, and ideas would be rather restrictive and boring. That leaves out the rest of the world, in fact.

So for me it comes down to talking about other people only when the intent is not malicious or potentially harmful to those individuals. That, of course, requires judgment on the part of the speaker, which may be flawed for whatever reason.

If knowing something about someone else is giving you a sense of power, then passing it on would probably rightly be called gossiping. How’s that for a rule of thumb?


Blogger Lemmonex said...

I think that is a perfect way of defining gossip. It is impossible to not talk about people sometimes; it is just what we do. It is not malicious to say "Oh, did you know so and so's son got in to VA Tech?"...but sometimes, I admit, it can get dicey.

8:31 AM  
Blogger Kristin said...

I go through spates where I feel like I gossip and those when I don't. I'm not sure what changes in the meantime, me or my outlook.

Intent is part of it, I think. Though, I don't like telling things that aren't mine to tell - like when my sister was expecting a baby, I didn't want to tell my brother.

8:32 AM  
Blogger bulletholes said...

I know a long tongued babbling gossip....she holds no power, no, nor claims to any.
What she has is a severe lack of discretion coupled with boredom in her own life.
What she seeks is relief from that and more information

9:44 AM  
Blogger Barbara said...

Lemmonex -- I'm with you. People are just too much a part of my world to edit them out of my conversation entirely. Discretion is the key!

Kristin -- You bring up an important point: Sometimes it's important not to tell the GOOD news as well and leave that to the source!

Bulletholes -- This person sounds like a gossip mill! I have known a few of those in my life. But they make me terribly uncomfortable because I can only assume they are talking about me as well.

10:29 AM  
Blogger Kellyann Brown said...

my mom had a friend who was constantly updating my mom on a long list of friends that my mother had never met. I think my mom found her stories amusing. Once there was a party and my mom met all these people that she had been hearing about for years, of course they met her as well.

I think that sometimes people talk about other people as a response to keep the conversation going. One of my friends does this by constantly asking for advice. Once the advice is given, she will ask everyone she knows. I find it rather annoying that she will ask my advice, but never follow it (well, not _never_).

I think that the term gossip implies maliciousness and it would certainly hurt to be branded this way. There is that piece of "He who is without sin should cast the first stone" kinda thing...

Usually we accept our friends foibles and learn to live with them. For example, one of my friends knows that I hate it when she makes a simple mistake and then calls herself "retarded"... but I have learned to laugh at my reaction to it.

Sounds like your former friend decided to sabotage your relationship, and did a pretty good job of it. It's too bad you are dealing with the aftermath.

One of my very good friends, I thought we were like sisters, one day decided that she didn't ever want to talk with me again. To this day, fourteen years later, I do not know why. I have wracked my brain for a reason. I have tried asking her to talk to me, asking her to forgive me for what it was... but no, she cut me out of her life completely.

I have come to deal with it, but it still hurts to think about (even though I have made good friends since then....)

12:12 PM  
Blogger Steve said...

I think intent is the key. Most of us have a sense of when we're saying something we shouldn't, or spreading news and information that really isn't ours to tell.

1:13 PM  
Blogger Gary said...

I'd say that was a pretty good rule of thumb. Gossip does have a seedy side, otherwise it is just sharing news isn't it? I think it also has to do with how close you are to the people you are talking about. Although I guess it is possible to gossip about your own family. Now you have confused me. LOL.

2:20 PM  
Blogger Barbara said...

Kelly -- I think acceptance of people as they are is a necessity for friendship or for most any permanent relationship. For most of us, change of our basic self is extremely difficult.

Steve -- Yes, INTENT is the key.

Gary -- Not all black and white. We simply must trust ourselves to do the right thing, knowing that sometimes people screw up unintentionally!

2:53 PM  
Blogger Mother of Invention said...

I think you're right, intent and examining what the purpose is for my telling others... but there is sometimes a fine line that even we don't recognize. It may be underlying or even sneaks in a certain tone that may have been picked up and misinterpreted by your friend, who seems sensitive to the vives of life etc. Do you not think there is even a chance of mending this once strong relationship? Even if you extended the olive branch? Maybe if she reads this, will she not soften her hard line a bit and realize what she has lost as well as you? Just a few thoughts. Anything's possible....(although I don't know all the details)

9:18 AM  

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