Give Her Something to Talk About
“Did you hear about (insert her name here)?”
“What do you think about (insert her name here)?
“OMG can we talk about (insert her name here)?
Raise your hand if you’ve ever been caught up in the gossip trap.
More often than not, I have been the one asking those questions as well as being on the receiving end of those questions. I have also been the person in question.
Lemme tell ya, none of it feels good.
In high school, I used to love when other girls would allow me to be a part of these conversations. I used to think of it as an invitation into the “inner circle”. Clearly they liked me and trusted me enough to discuss the personal and often unflattering business of other likeable ladies. And the better part of it was that they weren’t talking about me.
This gave me a false sense of security. But it was all just a facade. It looked like a brick house but when you inched closer, those bricks were really just paper. And paper can rip, tear and be burned.
To tell you that this just was contained in high school would be a lie. I definitely felt this well into college and adulthood. And if I’m being really honest, this sometimes can creep up even now. Oh the joys of being human!
Let’s break this down:
What the second line should read is: a normal part of being human.
Because we all do it.
Even the kindest, sweetest souls get caught in the gossip trap. Gossip can take many different forms. But I think the most common and trickiest is the kind that is dressed up as compassionate concern.
This is the kind that can catch you off guard because it doesn’t feel or sound like dirty gossip girl style talk but rather causal concern about another person. The conversation starts as an inquiry and then begins to unravel a heap of assumptions and misunderstandings. It’s tricky because we easily get caught up in it and it is also the kind we as women tend to participate in the most.
I don’t know about you but I often get hit with discomfort, regret and uncertainty when I engage in the compassionate concern type of gossip. First, because I know it isn’t right and second, I don’t always know what to do about it.
Let’s explore a few ways the collective WE can begin to redefine how we connect and converse as women…
1) Admit it - No need to front, we are all human and this is a part of our human experience. Let’s not make excuses, shame others or deny and claim we “never do this”. The first step is admitting that we have a problem, the second is the willingness to change it-together.
2) Tune in- Start to bring awareness to the conversations you are having. What does your group text consist of? When you grab drinks with a girlfriend, what does your conversation center on? Tuning in allows you to draw your attention to what you spend our time talking about and starting to see how much of that time is spent talking about others.
3) Check in- Look, I’ll be the first to tell you that I get caught up in this more often than not. And I will also tell you I don’t always know what to do. It feels uncomfortable to be in this situation and it is also uncomfortable to be in the thick of it and want to get out. Check in with yourself and take inventory of what is coming up for you in the moment - what are you feeling? how are you reacting? what are your options?
4) Speak with intention- Once you are more aware of your conversations, you can then begin to shift your intention. From the words you choose to the direction of your conversation-YOU hold the power of what comes out of your mouth. Can you practice the pause and ask-is this actual compassion? Is this necessary? Am I doing this out of my own insecurity?
5) Become a spinster- Each situation you are in is going to be different. From my experience, it is far easier to divert a conversation with someone you don’t know very well than to call out someone you know and love-sometimes. Sometimes, it is the opposite. It all depends on the person and the context. So with that being said, it is good to have some options in your tool belt to spin and turn conversations. Here are a few of mine:
Be Direct-tell the person directly to stop. This may sound like: “Hey, this isn’t cool…” or “I don’t feel comfortable talking about her…” or “I don’t engage in gossip”
Create a distraction- this is for my introvert hearts or folks who still aren’t super comfortable with confrontation or assertiveness (also great for work related situations). This may look like: ordering something, going to the bathroom, changing the subject, spilling your water. It can be anything to distract and redirect the conversation-so get creative!
Walk away- this isn’t always possible especially if your gossip trap is at work but simply leaving the situation removes you from the trap. This may look like: walking away from the group, putting in headphones, leaving the party.
If we can all take some radical responsibility in acknowleding that gossip is the basis of how we often connect with other women, then we can also take radical responsibility in shifting the conversation. We can redefine how we connect with other women by changing the way we speak to and about one another.
We can do this by beginning with the practice above. We can be gentle and forgiving. We can take it a step further by bravely confronting this form of connection up front as well as making amends with those we may have talked about. This last one takes a lot of integrity and isn’t always available to us. But when it is, it can be a really powerful act of love-to yourself and the woman you are apologizing to. Lastly, we can opt to change the subject. What if we celebrated and supported one another? What if instead of talking about that person we talk to that other person? What if we get real with ourselves and as why it is we feel the need to talk about other women?
This isn’t something that can just be eradicated over night. But we can all do our part in talking more about this and actively trying to change the dialogue when it comes to talking about other women. The more we actively take part in shifting the conversation, we become a mirror for others. If you want to give her something to talk about, let it be this.
If you are looking for a brave space that is redefining how women connect, then join us for one of our in person or online gatherings where we have conversations just like this and can put this practice into action.