Growing up, my family unanimously had a bad habit. We would all gossip to no end, and whenever confronted about it, my mother would just explain that being in everyone else’s business was part of the Mexican culture. As I got older, I started to remind myself of the entire cast of Gossip Girl: I was always engrossed in some new scandal, and got together with friends on weekends to have brunch and talk about people we didn’t particularly like. I was always wrapped up in the lives of other people. While most of it is harmless banter, a lot of this talk is unnecessary and fuels a negative outlook on people, ideas, and life.
One of my good friends stopped me mid-sentence during our weekly coffee date and pointed out that I hadn’t actually talked about anything of substance for more than thirty seconds, and that most of my conversation had revolved around who was dating who and other frivolous information she wasn’t particularly interested in hearing. She kindly suggested- and even offered to join me in attempting- a week being “gossip free” and using my words to spread ideas and positivity. While I was relatively skeptical about the whole idea, I decided to take on the challenge after some thought. I would take the week to not talk about people (unless necessary and in a kind way), not spread negative information, and try to build others up. While difficult, at the end of the week I was able to divert several of my conversations to different topics, and learned the true gift of positive speaking.
This was by far the most difficult day for me. I met one of my friends in the morning for a shopping and coffee date, and she wanted to feed my bad habit with updates on all of her friends’ lives, dating scene, bad mouthing roommates, and more. After telling her my challenge for the week, she rolled her eyes and responded with- “But….what are you going to talk about?” This made me both sad that she felt that I couldn’t actually go one week without gossip, but also question if I actually could! The rest of the afternoon was spent awkwardly flitting from conversations about Hilary Clinton running for presidency and new exercise classes that we wanted to take, but I managed to avoid spreading any negativity through my words.
I am a very talkative person in general, and it is quite hard to shut me up once I get going on any particular subject. Today was particularly challenging, as I had to go into work knowing that I couldn’t partake in office gossip, and would have to try and divert any negative talk to a different subject. While half of my office was out, the people that were there asked me several times if I was “OK” because I wasn’t saying much and trying to talk about local news stories, great activities that were coming up, and how the warm weather meant running season. After several realized I was not going to partake in the usual office gossip, I managed to get several people to talk about an art festival that was happening instead. I did slip a few times, but sometimes it’s hard to not get sucked in!
It was easier this day to not gossip than had been the other two. I spent the morning with the same friend who encouraged me to take the challenge, and we had a nice morning full of coffee and chats about Bar Method, dogs, and art projects she was working on. Later in the afternoon, I had a lot of solo time- so no need for gossip with myself!- and managed to get through the rest of my day only talking with my roommates about my morning and new dishes we wanted to cook for the week.
Similarly to most of the challenges that I have done, I always seem to hit a snag halfway through the course. Today was not the easiest of days for me, and I fell back into my old ways pretty quickly. After an awkward exchange from a few coworkers (having nothing to talk about), I gave in to the original conversation they were having and joined in the office gossip. While it felt nice at first to be back in the loop about what was going on, afterwards I was’t feeling that great about the situation. While it’s one thing to talk about negative things that are affecting you, the usual gossip was’t that appealing to me, which was a complete shock to me. I made a mental note of my feelings on this day to remind myself to stay strong.
Similar to yesterday, today wasn’t the greatest of days for me. I really like US Weekly and People, as it is a mindless read when I’m on the elliptical at the gym. There were many juicy stories in my magazines, and I promptly texted a friend back home about them- since she also shares the same love of celebrity rumors. Once again, it was fun in the moment, but made me feel a bit down afterwards, as I couldn’t even make it another day without some dumb celebrity gossip magazine. I got back on track pretty quickly and spent the rest of my day working on a few projects for work and drinking herbal tea 🙂
The second to last day of this has definitely been the most consistent so far. I had a consistent stream of professional people to engage with and had to keep banter to a minimum, but was able to keep discussion light, fun, and most importantly- gossip-free! After work, was spent at the gym (magazine free!) and I was able to meet a friend to watch reruns of an old television show we like.
This last day was quite nice! Since it was a weekend, I was able to mostly keep to myself and spent the day recharging from the week and taking care of things around the house. My mother- queen of gossip- called me in the early afternoon wanting to know everything about everyone, but I was able to distract her with a few stories about projects I was working on and the fast I was prepping for the following week. Not too much interaction went on today, but it was safe to assume I was able to keep negative talk to minimum.
While I felt overall this week I was able to divert conversation to other subjects and not tear people down, this challenge mainly taught me that gossip is everywhere and pretty hard to avoid! I was able to clear my mindset of only focusing on gossip fueled banter and ultimately hope to eliminate negative talk from my life.
Words have the power to tear down, but they also have the power to nurture, rebuild, and enhance life.
Would you try living gossip-free?
Also by Karina: How to Deal with a Toxic Work Environment
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