Fifteen hundred people heard the same message from… Wait, I can’t tell you who the speaker was because what follows might be considered gossip! Anyway, the speech was brilliantly delivered: a few hard facts, a tug at the heart strings, and a lot of humor. Everyone heard his words as evidenced by the sidesplitting laughter and an occasional sniffle. The speaker sternly warned the audience against gossip and drama in the workplace. This paralleled Paul’s concern in 2 Corinthians 12:20: “I fear that there may be quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, factions, slander, gossip, arrogance and disorder.”
But, surprisingly, the gossip continued immediately following the speech. We all had our reasons…ahem, excuses:
- It’s just a bad habit: Au contraire, mon frère! Just because you do something all of the time, doesn’t mean it is OK. It is like speeding on the Interstate every day and not getting caught. After a while it seems as if the law no longer applies. But, the speed limit hasn’t increased; only the desensitization to the speed limit. Time to break a bad habit.
- I was just making conversation: Remember Mom saying, “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all”? This is still good advice! And no one knows for sure who said, “Great minds discuss ideas, average minds discuss events, and little minds discuss people,” but it reminds us to always consider our dialogue. Gossip is not casual conversation, our tongues can be like swords and our words aimed like deadly arrows (Psalm 64:3).
- I was just listening: Even if you don’t add details to the conversation you are guilty by association. Your mere tolerance of the discussion condones the discussion. Before Claybaugh’s speech, I was impressed to see a woman move away from her boss and his colleagues as they slandered another man and his team. I also noticed she was often alone because she disassociated herself from the gossip. There may be a price, but it is worth paying. I know she is someone who can be trusted.
- It doesn’t hurt them if they can’t hear it: Damaged reputations and strained relationships usually result even if your words are held in strict confidence. In reality, confidentiality is hard to maintain and very few can pull it off. And don’t forget that Irish saying, “Who gossips with you will gossip of you.” Some people feel better after a big gripe session –but, for all of the wrong reasons. Gossip hurts everyone.
- I’m not gossiping, I am just working through the details: Proverbs 26:20 says, “Without wood a fire goes out; without gossip a quarrel dies down.” How many times have you seen someone get worked up all over again by rehashing old news? Forgiveness gasps for air in these fiery situations. Discussing our struggles with others can be a sincere effort to understand or it can be an excuse to tarnish someone’s character or spread rumors. Be sure you know the difference.
In the end, it is hard to find a ‘reason’ for gossip that holds up to scrutiny. Expand your dialogue beyond topics of personality and excuse yourself if someone warms up the rumor mill, shares the latest scuttlebutt, or tells you what they heard on the grapevine. No matter where you work or who you are with –the policy is ‘No Gossip’. This policy applies to everyone. Shhh, that means you! And me!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Michelle Sugerman (PMP, PCC) is a speaker, author, and leadership coach with Leading Synergies. She hosts global masterminds, called Synergy Groups, for REALLY BUSY Christians leading with powerful confidence and humble hearts. She works with high-performing leaders focused on organizational effectiveness by refining strategy, inspiring teams, and delighting clients. Michelle specializes in the areas of information technology, project management, franchise management, and business as mission. Michelle lives in Colorado where she hikes fourteeners and enjoys gourmet meals with her loving husband of 22 years.