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?