The Rumor Mills of Small Communities

I’ve been thinking about the destructive nature of gossip lately, particularly as I keep hearing things about other people I know in town from people who somehow think it is okay to talk about others in negative ways. The next time this happens, I’m going to say something about “glass houses.” You know the saying.

My exasperation with gossip here led me to post this to my Facebook profile:

The rumor mill in this town is cruel & out of control. Even me – the gal who is a total outsider – is told things about others that I don’t believe & even if I did, I really don’t need to know. If you start with “I heard that” or “Did you know ” then are about to mention a person other than yourself, shut up.

Personally, I’m fairly untouched by the gossip about me. Yes, I’ve heard some of the things that people say about me here, but I know none of it is true, and the people who actually matter don’t believe or care what is said and are smart enough to consider the source.

None of the gossip really sticks anyway because I know the people who are privy to the truth about me, my family and my life are good and trusted friends. Nobody else has access to anything other than what I tell them personally or publish online. I have nothing to hide really – I’ve blogged about everything before so am pretty immune. Others who aren’t used to living so publicly aren’t as inured.

There are several reasons why people gossip about others – and this is true in any community and even in industries or any environment where there are people:

  1. Insecurity. People who feel good about their own lives don’t gossip hurtfully about others.
  2. Envy. This ties in with #1. If a person is insecure, they see someone else’s good life or good fortune as something to envy so they look for ways to hurt or reduce that other person so they aren’t reminded of what they don’t have.
  3. Ignorance. Some people just aren’t smart enough to realize the damage they are doing – not just to others but to themselves – by gossiping.
  4. Boredom. When someone is bored with their life, they spend far too much time concerned about what others are doing.
  5. Cruelty. There are some people who are angry and bitter so they lash out by saying hurtful things about others thinking it will make them feel better.
  6. Sickness. There are some people for whom gossiping is a sign of a greater psychological disorder. I met one of those people when I first arrived here and got inadvertently sucked in for a brief time. Luckily, I learned what was going on, cut ties immediately and unequivocally, and worked to make amends to those who were affected.

No matter what the cause, gossip is just wrong. It doesn’t even matter if what is being spread around is true – it is none of our damn business unless it directly affects our own – or our family’s – safety or well being. Nine times out of 10, the gossip you are hearing is not true – so why would you ever want to repeat it – it just makes you look like a liar.

More than anything, remember that each time you talk about someone else in a negative way, you are painting yourself as a bad person who cannot be trusted. Even your so-called “friends” who seem to relish the gossip you spread know good and well that you aren’t a person who can be trusted. Deep down inside they are wondering “What are they saying about me when I’m not around?” And those who seem to love the gossip you share are the kind of people who won’t think twice about saying something negative about you. And trust me, they are.

Next time someone starts to tell you salacious things about someone else, just look them in the eye and make it clear that you JUST. DON’T. CARE. And next time you feel the urge to say something negative about someone else, JUST. SHUT. UP.

What are your thoughts on gossip?

stock xchng image by jlburgess