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  • Writer's pictureDiana Fletcher

Gossip? Or a Good Story?

"Live in a way that you will have stories to tell." ---Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estes

I love this! I love hearing stories and I love telling stories. As a child, I read Fairy Tales of every kind, and I am still enjoying them as I listen to Clarissa Pinkola Estes talk about fairy tales and archetypes. She also tells stories about her family and this is a rich, wonderful treasure trove that she shares.

But this got me thinking... What is the difference between a good story, and gossip?

I guess one difference would be: if you tell stuff about yourself. But, then if someone tells someone else the story about you that you told them, is that gossip? What if you don't care if someone else tells the story?

For example, when my skirt inched its way down to my thighs, as I hurried across Duquesne's campus to sit on a Coaching panel, I was very entertained when I finally looked down! I guess my slip was too slippery, and I was just lucky the skirt didn't end up around my ankles. (Which would have been an even better story!) I couldn't wait to get inside, tell the other coaches, and call my sister.

Now, here's the thing. If anyone else told that story about me, I wouldn't care. I wouldn't consider it gossip. When my Meals on Wheels partner told me that she had entertained her son with stories I had told her about my son picking me up and carrying me out of the room when I was sternly rebuking him, I didn't consider that gossip.

So here is the dictionary definition: A person who chatters or repeats idle talk and rumors, esp. about the private affairs of others.

Again though, you could consider my two examples as private, but I don't consider them gossip. Both stories could be considered "idle" talk. Is the difference when you don't have permission? Is the difference when you are repeating it for no reason except to repeat it? Is it gossip only if it is something bad?

What about when you tell another friend about a mutual friend that just found out her husband cheated on her? What if your only reason for telling her was so that you could both be supportive and loving for her? What if you tell one person something and neither of you ever tell anyone else? Is that gossip? One part of that definition is rumor. What if it is something about a friend, and you would want to know in order to help them or try to stop the rumor?

OK, if it is someone you don't even know, you probably don't need to hear about it or talk about it...especially if it is ugly.

I try not to talk about people in a way that hurts them. I try not to say anything that they couldn't overhear me saying about them. Am I always successful? Heck no!

But I have a line that could be considered the icky line. If I cross it and say something mean or bad, I feel icky and I acknowledge it.

One thing I have noticed is that I don't encounter a lot of people who seem to relish the bad stuff and want to tell it. I am not saying that those people don't exist. I know they do. I stay away from them, and I don't seem to attract them very often.

I think talking about other people and people you don't even know (Unless it's about a woman whose skirt fell down in public), is a waste of time and a stress inducer. You know that your body reacts to the negative...don't go there!

I would LOVE to hear your thoughts and comments. Please let me know what you think the difference is between gossip and a good story!

Penelope said "I love telling stories too! That is partly how I get through humiliating moments. I just think to myself that it will be a great story!"

Diana responded to Penelope; "Penelope, Thanks for writing! I do the same thing!"

Barb said "I love listening to other people’s stories. I have learned a lot about myself and the ways of the world by giving my full attention to the storyteller so that I can get any “hidden meanings” as well. Hearsay, gossip, rumors, or truth can all be hurtful especially if repeating it would embarass or hurt the person it is being told about. I had an experience at a social event where someone I knew slightly came into a circle of my friends and proceded to tell a story about a woman who had something terrible happen to her. Before long, I realized the story was about me! My friends all started to turn red and were having a hard time keeping blank expressions. I politely stopped the woman and asked her how she would feel if we were all telling a story about her to her friends. She looked around, and seeing the other’s faces, got the realization of what was happening. I excused myself from the group and joined another one nearby. I soon saw my real friends moving away from the group, one by one, many stopping by to squeeze my hand or give me a knowing wink. The truth is, our moms were right….”if you don’t have anything good to say, don’t say anything at all”, because hearsay, gossip, rumors, or truth can still hurt."

Diana responded to Barb with "Barb, Oh my gosh! I am so sorry that happened and I do hope that woman realizes how inappropriate and hurtful her words were. I had a similar situation when someone I had just met, started repeating something someone had told her about a speaker at an event she had attended. Partway into the story, I realized she was referring to me, and I stopped her. I said, “That was me.” She mumbled something and moved on. Part of me wished I had listened, just to hear what she said, then I realized I didn’t care. I have always known that some people like me and some people don’t. Oh well. I like your observation about learning about yourself and the world and hidden meanings. Thank you so much for taking the time to write and share."

Sophie Zollmann said "I am not much of a storyteller and I hate gossip! I try my best to only talk facts and only to those who need to know. When it comes to rumors and gossip I hear about others, I do not spread them and generally try to warn the victim if they don’t already know. In my opinion, those who gossip about others are only hiding their own faults and problems from themselves and others."

Diana responded to Sophie Zollmann; "Sophie, Thanks for writing. I found it interesting that you said you try to warn the victim. I agree that we need to let people know sometimes that something is being said. I hate mean talk! Thanks again for writing!"

zyngachips said "I absolutely love your blog! I wouldn’t mind producing a post or elaborating on many of the subjects you write about here. Again, awesome weblog!"

Diana responded to zyngachips and said "I occasionally have guest bloggers.Send me more info on you through my website. Thanks for writing!"

Nancy said "Gossip is a real sore spot with me …. because, to me, gossip is not just about repeating hurtful things, but gossip includes repeating ANYTHING that is told you in confidence. Unless a friend gives you or me clearance to repeat her news we have no right.

Each individual has the right to tell his or her own story. Say a friend tells you she is expecting … is it ok for you to tell others? No! It is her story to tell! Another friend got the promotion she desired … can you tell your prayer circle? No! Let her share this good news herself. If your friend has given you permission to share, that’s another story. Just be sure you have that permission before you repeat a thing.

Speaking of prayer .. God doesn’t need a whole bunch of details. He knows.

By repeating these sorts of things you are robbing that individual of their right to tell their own story. When you rob them of that right you are gossiping.

It makes me really upset when I hear a friend has repeated something I have told her. I have told a certain friend many many times that she does not have my permission to repeat certain things I tell her (I have learned to make it clear which things are these!) … yet this friend still betrays my trust. This is one very good way to ruin a friendship. Since I love this friend I have learned to be very very careful what I tell her! Sometimes this becomes uncomfortable.

Watch your tongue! A dangerous weapon."

Diana responded to Nancy with "Nancy, Thanks so much for writing. You made some excellent points and gave me a lot to think about. I have one person in my life who does not have a “shut-off’ switch. It sounds like this may be like your friend who cannot seem to stop repeating what you tell her. I have learned to be judicious in what I tell this person. If it is something I don’t want repeated, I stop myself from sharing. It has limited intimacy and that is the trade off I have made. I want the person in my life so I had to weigh it out. I guess some friends will just not be at the same level of honesty and intimacy as others, but they may be really good people and friends for other reasons."

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