Wednesday, September 16, 2015

On Gossip

When I was twenty I took a job at Hallmark in Missoula, MT. Glamorous I know. It was there that I first made a conscious effort to opt out of gossip. I just didn't want to have any part of gossip. Unfortunately I did not realize that there would be negative repurcussions to my choice. When my co-workers would try and share gossip with me I would basically just run away saying things like,"I have to dust the ceramic bunnies." I took on weird solo jobs, like organizing off site storage or cataloging the Christmas ornaments in the attic. I had no tools to deal with the seemingly endless mean talk. I was soon taken aside and told that I was doing a great job (hello color coded beanie baby system), but my co-workers felt that I was aloof. 

I realized then that many of us like to bond over shared concerns, problems, negatives. I get it, this forces a certain intimacy, an illusion of closeness. I, however, was at a loss. I didn't know how to tell people that I did not want to hear their gossip without sounding high and mighty. Also, I understood, I too needed to occasionally vent about my co-workers, but I reserved that venting for my husband, parents, and sometimes my closest confidants.  Many of my co-workers did not have any other outlet, they were alone and work was their life. My choice to step back sent them a message that I didn't care or thought that I was better in some way. I will admit that it was painful to realize that in my attempt to say nothing bad about others that I became the subject of their angry whispering.

I spent the first two years we lived in Missoula without making any friends. I mean that I worked to not make new friends. Basically this is torture for extroverts. I was very depressed, but I just did not know how to navigate my way to the positive friendships I so desired. I forced myself to take time and set my own parameters about what I wanted from friendships and what was unacceptable. 

Since I took that time I have made the best friendships of my life. I feel like I am a better friend too. I don't want to imply that I do not vent about my problems, but really I only do so with my husband, parents, and bestie----and this is because I know that they understand where I am coming from. I don't want to put down anyone, but sometimes I just need to share.

How do you handle gossip? 


Sarah Purdy said...

What's that quote from Steel Magnolias? "If you don't have anything nice to say, come sit by me." Haha. I like my fair share of well intentioned gossip (Oooh Girrrrll...she's been workin' out!) but I can't stand when things get snarky and bitchy. Most of the time, I think it says a lot more about the person dishing it than the person at the center. Teacher's lounges are like hornet's nests for that sort of thing, and since I often don't know who they're talking about (#travelingteacherlife), I'm usually good at steering the convo away to something in the news or some o' dat self deprecating humor that I pride myself on. I am, however, a fan of the band Gossip, simply because Beth Ditto is a total riot grrrl.

Your Proud Mother said...

You make me so very proud of you!

I try to remember Martin Luther's words about explaining our neighbor's actions in the kindest way possible. Sometimes it is very difficult and sometimes I fail dreadfully. It is so much easier to try to explain someone's weaknesses or mistakes in the least kind way, amplifying it for the sake of making a better story.

Again, you make me very proud.

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