What is gossip?

“We gossip when we talk about someone, rather than directly to him. Two people move closer to each other at the expense of the gossiped-about party, who is focused on in a critical or worries way. You can measure the amount of anxiety in any system by the amount of gossip going on.

“Can it ever be useful to involve a third-party? Of course. When having trouble with [a boss], it would have been helpful for me to seek out a wise, clearheaded person for advice about better managing my relationship with him. But, I wasn’t looking for helpful coaching, which requires a focus on self. I was looking for an ally–a perfectly normal human impulse. So I grabbed anyone I thought might by sympathetic.

“A good rule about gossip is to try not to say anything that you wouldn’t want to be overheard.

“When you are having a problem with someone at work, talk directly to that person.

“When you make gossiping a habit, it can back-fire big-time… Gossip creates insiders and outsiders. It makes it more difficult for all parties to resolve the issues between them and to feel competent and included.”

Fear and Other Uninvited Guests: Tackling the Anxiety, Fear, and Shame that Keep Us from Optimal Living and Loving by Harriet Lerner (2004), in chapter 7 entitled “Your Anxious Workplace” (pp. 109-111).

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