Friday, May 25, 2007

Define Gossip

I was at a dinner party recently and this topic came up. Everyone had a different idea of how to answer this, and none satisfied me.

So here's my question: when in the company of friends, what is the difference between processing/venting/trying to understand a person and gossiping?

For me, the difference is in the intent of the conversation. When with my "sisterhood", we have a very nurturing, supportive, emotionally healthy group, so naturally things come up. If I am talking to them about someone because I have concern, or I'm trying to better understand this person, I do not consider it gossiping. In these cases, no matter what I say about someone, I'm saying it out of a place of love. A place of frustration, anger, or even hurt, but also love. I often need to process things out loud, get others' perspective, and hear myself speak in order to understand people and situations and also myself.

I leave these conversations feeling better. I feel heard, understood, and validated. Sometimes enriched. Or enlightened to what a boob I had been. And the situation at hand always seems more clear.

When I gossip, I feel yucky about it later. I said something about someone just to say it. Just to hear the other person say "Yeah, I know. I couldn't believe she said that! And the other night, she said..." When I gossip, I am doing it to build a case against someone. As in, she is so controlling! And here's an example! And here's another example! And another!

(I realize that the line between the two is narrow and often blurred, but this definition has worked for me in most situations.)

Most often, I avoid gossip and therefore the gossip hangover. Most often, my intentions are pure. But the other night at dinner, I realized that this model that I had been operating under was not universal. Some thought that relaying information (like telling your husband about your day) was acceptable, and everything else was gossip. And many people thought that ANY talk of others was gossip, unless that person was present. No one agreed with my point of view. I began to think of all the times I was probably perceived as a gossiper. Marie, Queen of Gossip.


I feel strongly that when my intentions are good, it doesn't really matter what others think. This topic got to me though. What exactly is gossip?

1 comment:

Mommy Brain said...

For me, gossip is all about intent. If you are saying "she is so controlling and here's an example" because you are frustrated, need to vent or need advice that is okay. If you're saying it because you want to diminish this person's reputation then that is gossip. And the conversation can turn into gossip if the other people in the group start attacking the person. Compared to venting/trying to understand a person in which case the conversation would be more of a 'I wonder where she's coming from' and 'is that always the experience of was she having an off day' kind of thing.

Very interesting topic and gave me something to think about as far as my own conversations.

In response to your comments on my blog - my twins ARE identical. What a funny coincidence! I started to write a post a few weeks ago about the day we found out it was twins. Now I'll definately have to post my story (and you will too!)