What is it about gossips that make them so bad? After all, it is only words that are used in gossiping (sharing a rumor or personal story belonging to someone else). Once words are spoken, they cannot be recycled, erased, collected, expunged, obliterated or changed. Passing along information spoken in confidence or that may have heard from someone else can hurt another person very badly. Sometimes it can backfire and put the person who spread the story in trouble too!

Being sensitive to the feelings of others can be a useful guide. Putting oneself in the shoes of another can help understand how it may feel! Sharing information that is personal, health or job related should be left to the individual if and when they are ready to share the information.

Some quick tips...

If the information seems too personal, keep it to yourself.
If the information is hurtful, don’t pass it along.
If the information serves a malicious purpose, break the chain.
If the information can affect someone’s livelihood, don’t repeat it.

Leticia Baldridge, author of the Complete Guide to Executive Manners cautions, “Think before you participate in gossip, either by adding to it or by reinforcing it, even if you believe it to be true.” Time is spent building self esteem and making good decisions; choose what appropriate dialogue. Emphasis is placed on doing the right thing such as refusing to listen to the idle chatter, redirecting conversation to other topics, walking away or taking a leadership role by defending the target of the gossip by saying, “I don’t think Jane or Bob would want this to be discussed”.

Parents can set an example for their children by diffusing gossip-y conversations. Change the topic to something less volatile. Explain that the information may be incorrect and should not be further transmitted. Discuss feelings regarding communication of personal information. Clarify how easily rumors begin and the damaging effects they can have on a person (consider role-playing). If this seems confusing, perhaps a class that enables children to focus on the positive development of their social skills, such as learning to converse, rather than the spread of vicious gossip is in order. Contact EtiKids for more information!

Think of your mother's words: if you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything!