I have thought about this before so I thought I’d ask all you wise people what you think. I would like to know the difference between gossiping and concern for someone else.
This is what the dictionary says: gos·sip 1: a person who habitually reveals personal or sensational facts about others 2: a rumor or report of an intimate nature b: a chatty talk c: the subject matter of gossip
I have known gossip to make a grown person cry and feel so bad they are ashamed and embarrassed. They got so humiliated they didn’t want to go to work. Gossip to me is a lot like bullying. Every time the story is told, it changes in some way. Whether a word was added or a word deleted. A sentence changed or elaborated. Haven’t we all played the “telephone” game where we sat in a circle and repeated what we heard and by the time the end person repeated it, it wasn’t the same as what the first person who started the game said? We all know people this has happened to and really, it’s very sad. So why is it done? Why do smart, seemingly educated people resort to this kind of thing?
I have done it. I’m not proud of it but I’m not going to lie. I can say though that I never meant to hurt anyone. I’m just not a mean person but I have repeated something that I had no idea of knowing if it was the truth or not. You know “water cooler talk.”
But is it the same way for example if one of my daughter in laws has a problem and I talk it over with the other one? If I’m concerned over what to do, if I’m worried. If my brother is having a problem and I talk to my dad about it. Ask him for advice? My mom will tell me something and say “don’t tell anyone, I don’t want them to think I was talking about them?” I once talked to someone out of concern and it got back to the person and they got mad at me for “talking about them” and I wasn’t talking bad, I was concerned over what to do. If anything.
So is CONCERNED talking about someone to someone you know and trust, the same as gossiping?
I think if you can honestly say the intended or expected outcome of the discussion is to help the person you’re talking about, then that’s concern. This includes if you are letting someone close in on the story in order that they be concerned too. (Like if my mom tells me the latest problem my sister is having, not in a mean way but because she’s worried.) But if you know the person isn’t going to be helped in any way by your talking about them, and you’re telling the story to get or give some sort of entertainment, that is gossip.
Gossip is something I do but I hate that I do it. I too have been wondering why this type of bonding is so popular / universal. Why is it that the minute someone starts talking about a person not present who has made lots of mistakes, everyone else is so eager to jump in and laugh together about that person? There is always someone in my family who is getting slammed behind their back, and the spotlight tends to move from person to person over time. I’m sure it’s been on me at times too. It’s just so sad that we delight in such negativity. But what other topic is as interesting to mixed group of people? OK, politics and such . . . but other than that, I don’t know.
I think you are a good writer and your blogs are interesting to read. They are good perspectives and questions! I like to write blogs like this also on myspace.
Well, to me it is very clear why people gossip and what the difference is between concern and gossip. People gossip, or in other words talk about another person just to talk, because it takes the concentration of themselves. Gossiping is a way for one to feel better about themselves and their situations, because they may be going through the same thing but be in denial or unresolved over their own issues.
But when a person is honest with themselves and deals with their own situations positively, then to talk about others is out of concern and they will be able to relate, be compassionate, be empathetic vs. gossiping’s negative, judgmental and critisizing tone.
I think if the talk is in anyway negative or degrading towards the person not present, it can be considered gossip, and not productive.
If it is being spoken in an effort to help the other person or to come up with solutions for the other person or to make people aware of circumstances so thay they can be understanding of the person then it can be labeled “concern” and might be productive.
My 2 cents: It is all about the intention behind the action. Don’t worry too much about the labels – as long as your intention is sincere and good, then you shouldn’t feel bad.
There is another category too: UPDATE. When I speak to anyone, I usually ask if they have heard from anyone else (that I know) and ask how they are and what they are up to. I’m quite sure this too is not considered gossip. (Otherwise, being so far away from my family, I will never know how they all are and what they are up to 🙂 )
I feel if it’s family and your discussing something particular and in a way to help or just to understand what the situation is, it’s concern. Something like your brother is having a problem and you and your mom are just talking between the two of you and it will never go anywhere else. If your worried or sad, I don’t feel that’s gossip.
To me, gossip is talk that you don’t know is true and you repeat it to someone else “as fact.”
You’ve said something key here, Joy:
“My mom will tell me something and say “don’t tell anyone, I don’t want them to think I was talking about them?””
I think that if you aren’t willing to have the person you’re talking about hear what you say to another person, you might be getting close to the waters of gossip. That said, I know it can be difficult sometimes to directly tell a person something that might hurt his/her feelings, and talking to someone else about the situation is key to resolving it. I do think gossip has a tinge of meanness about it, versus the idea of concern, which is an attempt to be constructive about a situation.
I have to say, though, I hate it when somebody tells me not to say anything to the person being gossiped about. That’s not baggage I want.
The funny thing about my mom is Mary that no matter what we are talking about, she’ll say that. If she tells me my brother ate X for supper, she’ll say, I talked to X and he’s having X for supper, she’ll say, let him tell you. It’s almost like everything is secret with her and it feels to me, like it’s gossip only I know it won’t go any further. We are making small talk but to her, it’s all hush, hush! But I wonder if she talks to everyone like that, then I’m not sure if other people keep it to themselves. I let it go in one ear and out the other but I often wonder if other people do that?
I think Mary has got it right. If the person in question were to hear the conversation and be hurt in some way then you are probably gossiping. But I also think that depending on circumstances the simple act of bringing up someone else’s personal matter with a third party may be gossip. There have been times I’ve felt a confidence was betrayed when people who I never broached a topic with knew things I had trusted one person with. I think what constitutes gossip can also be related to understanding discretion and what information is yours to share and respecting when someone has confided in you. So I don’t think that it necessarily has to be hurtful in order for it to be considered gossip.
I also have had friends who were pretty bad gossips, but whenever confronted said they were just concerned, when really it was a way to pass judgment by seemingly pointing out all the problems or issues in someone else’s life. The difference I think is whether you bring it up with the person. Because if you are concerned for a legitimate reason there needs to be a point when you bring it up with that person, If you just keep talking about someone else when they are not there becasue you are concerned, but never act on that concern by expressing it to them its probably gossip.