What Makes Gossip And Rumours So Dangerous?

25 May

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Gossip exposes someone who isn’t present to defend themselves, to the collective wrath of others. It denies them a right to be fairly heard. It’s a cunning, passive aggressive  form of ally recruitment, warlike in nature, used to advance ones own opinions and agenda. Spreading rumours can be harmful to the reputation, credibility and social standing of others. Gossip encourages recruiters to dislike, be wary, mistrust, avoid, exclude and see the target as unappealing. It’s a form of social bullying.

Incite hatred long enough in a small community, and it will eventually fall into the ears of those from the dark side of humanity, those who take pleasure in taking matters into their own hands, provoking and harassing. Once indifference has been fostered, destroying others becomes sport-like. Be wary because encouraging others to act on your behalf is dangerous and in some cases illegal, for both of you.

Fight or flight becomes the norm for the target in a misinformation campaign. Sometimes targets can’t cope and may hurt or harm themselves or they may take serious revenge as an escape from the constant pressure. Both can have devastating consequences. (Please see additional links below if you need help for either.)

If you are in the presence of someone spreading gossip about another person, here a few things you could say to disarm them:

  • I’m not comfortable because they’re not here to hear you say that.
  • If they were here, would you still say it to their face?
  • It could be good to consider if this is a caring way to talk about someone.
  • Were you there? Do you actually know the facts? Do they know you are telling me this?
  • Is that something you’d feel comfortable signing your name to?

If you’re the target and it hasn’t already escalated into a dangerous assassination of your character, here are a few things you could try, as long as it’s not a narcissist or sociopath that’s spreading the rumours:

  • Go directly to the spreader of gossip.
  • Stay as calm and emotionally detached as possible, realising within, that you cannot change their behaviour, but you can seek to understand what drives their behaviour.
  • Ask “Can you help me understand what you’ve said about me and why?”
  • Listen calmly, and openly without justifying or defending.
  • Set a clear boundary asking them to not to do it again.

What to do if you have been the target of negative gossip and you can’t confront it, are deeply affected by it and or whatever reason are unable to confront it:

  1. Understand that hate is toxic and affects your mind, body and spirit. It’s not unusual to feel powerless, hurt and angry.
  2. Know that how you respond to being negatively provoked is everything at this point. Stay as resourced as possible to reduce the natural urge to fight or shut down. Stay reflective about what you say and how you behave and if this means saying or doing nothing, do that. Remove yourself from unsafe situations and calm your nerves and heart rate.
  3. Maintain your integrity. Know that you are a good person, with honest, strong moral principles spreading goodness in the world. Take pride in what you do and keep doing it well.
  4. Increase your self-care. Go for a walk, practise mindfulness, use calming breathing techniques. Drink lots of water. Don’t numb yourself with drugs or excessive alcohol.
  5. Express your anger in positive ways. Yell in a pillow. Use a punching bag. Weed the garden. Kick a ball. Write it out.
  6. Keep aiming for a positive mindset even if you have to dig deep. Search for positive things that are happening and savour as many joyful experiences as possible. Look for inspiration and beauty. Lose yourself in a movie. Enjoy the company of animals.
  7. Look at the larger picture of your life and be strong and courageous. Know that you have toughness of spirit. Know that eventually, this too shall pass.
  8. Stay resilient and trust that you have the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties.
  9. Try as much as you can to disengage emotionally from what others are doing or not doing and why, and make it not matter as much to you by focusing on your life, turning your thoughts as often as you can, to other things.

Refusing to partake in negative comments about others is an act of kindness which encourages a culture of respect. In my thirty years of working with couples, one of the most successful things I have helped thousands implement is to increase kindness and to be respectful. To praise and affirm. To notice the good and to speak it. To stay away from toxic situations and people as much as possible. Buddha has a saying which asks us to consider what we say, before we say it by asking “Is it true, is it necessary, is it kind? I will leave you with the wonderful words of Don Miguel Ruiz who I was lucky enough to hear speak once,  “Use the power of your word in the direction of truth and love.”

Additional  helpful links.

Community Law.  In regards to bullying and harassment.

Awesome anger information from a UK booklet.

National helplines NZ

Need to talk? Free call or text 1737 any time for support from a trained counsellor

Lifeline – 0800 543 354 (0800 LIFELINE) or free text 4357 (HELP)

Suicide Crisis Helpline – 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO)

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