The Price of Gossip
If you must slander someone don't speak it - but write it - write it in the sand, near the water's edge!
Throughout the day we either give away our energy or have it taken from us. This happens both consciously and unconsciously. When we are providing support and counsel for a grieving friend, we will consciously give our time in listening and empathising. When someone engages us with contaminated communication in which there are hidden messages designed to trigger us into a certain response, we give our energy unconsciously to taking the bait and responding to their comments in an automatic and unproductive way.
One common way to lose energy at work or when socialising is to engage in gossip. Gossip can appear to be harmless and fun but, regardless of who the subject is and why, it will always incur some cost to our wellbeing.
Gossip can vary a great deal in nature. It can range from frivolous and light-hearted to malicious and unkind. The latter of these is obvious in its negative effects but with regard to the former, even when we are able to convince ourselves that the subject would not mind being talked about in such a way, there is still an emotional cost.
It is easy to have our energy taken from us by those who gossip if we are not fully conscious of what is going on. No one begins by announcing that they are about to engage in such a practice. We are usually first exposed to the furtive mention of a little-known or scandalous fact that we were previously unaware of. This gets our attention and from there we can be drawn further in until before we know it, we are fully participating. There are those who are very practised at this art.
Gossip is addictive. The body’s response to it is to produce emotions of excitement and a feeling of inclusion and belonging. As we participate, we volunteer our own spin, and any additional information that we have, to add to the existing melting pot.
The need to gossip it is driven by our desire to fit in. When viewed from a tribal perspective – if we engage in gossip about someone else, we ensure that it is we who are doing the gossiping and we reduce the risk of becoming the subject of gossip ourselves. Engaging in gossip makes us feel that we are part of a group rather than isolated from it. This creates feelings of safety and acceptance, all of which are sought after by the primal part of the psyche that craves survival.
Most of us have underlying knowledge that engaging in gossip neither serves the Self or the community. We know this because we whisper it behind our hands or begin by saying
“I know I shouldn’t say this but….”
We impart it to a trusted friend in confidence and thereby we feel that we have entered into a sacred contract of exclusive trust and friendship. All of this only serves to add to the excitement of inciting or participating in this practice which may ultimately put our own wellbeing at stake. When the excitement has passed, we often feel depleted and a little soiled. When we know this before we begin, gossiping can feel like fun, but at a price.
What, then is the price of gossip?
The excitement that we feel when we gossip could well be the initiation of the fight/flight response. This means an increase of the harmful stress hormones adrenaline and cortisol in our blood stream.
Chronically increased levels of these are harmful, increasing the risk of a variety of health problems.
In addition, when we regularly participate in gossip we will be constantly ‘watching our back’ for consequences. Apart from the fear of being overheard or ‘found out’ there is the anxiety created by mixing in circles where gossip is celebrated or at least accepted and allowed. What does this mean for us? If this is the case, are we fair game as well? Do we need to take precautionary measures to make sure that we are not next? How would we cope if the tables turned, and those savage tongues were suddenly directed at us?
When we engage in gossip, we often feel peremptory guilt. There are always consequences to our interactions. Words can be either poison or medicine and we tattoo both ourselves and others with our choice of them.
We can never know what experiences of trauma or negative beliefs lie within
the psyche of another person and so when we engage in speaking about them without pure, good intention, we can cause harm.
The next time that you feel drawn into a situation of gossip press pause
Silently thank your Observer Self for alerting you by picking up on the very subtle body sensations that take place when something does not feel right.
“What is my intention here?”
“What could be gained from contributing to this discussion?”
“What is the price of participating in this conversation
· in terms of consequences to others?
· in terms of my own energy?”
“Is this a price I am willing to pay?”
You are now free to choose how you want to respond
· You can consciously contribute in your usual way
· You can remain silent
· You can craft a new conscious closed response for example
“Thank you for letting me know”
For more information on self-mastery and for tools on conserving and reclaiming energy see our book https://www.amazon.co.uk/How-Rise-Complete-Resilience-Manual/dp/1529370116/
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