A reader wrote to me recently on the effect of gossip in her community. Gossip is dividing her friends, and she is rightly upset about it.

This could have been any dancer, from anywhere the world. The location may change, but the impact of gossip stays the same.

I hate gossip. I don’t give a crap about people’s personal lives, and neither should you. The following 10-point manifesto is intended to give you the strength to act as you should when it shows up in your social group.

Avoid gossip, embrace connection.

Gossip (noun):
1. casual or unconstrained reports about other people, typically involving details that are not confirmed as being true
2. a person who likes talking about other people’s private lives

GOSSIP HAPPENS. It’s not a matter of whether, but when. Spreading gossip is not a moral imperative, it’s a poorly thought out choice.

GOSSIP IS CANCEROUS. It spreads quickly. It suffocates friendships. It breeds suspicion and erodes the trust that keeps a community in balance.

GOSSIP IS A POOR WAY TO BOND with another person. What are some good ways? Shared activities, shared dreams, shared fears, shared values. These build friendships, community, and mutual support.

GOSSIPING GETS YOU ZERO RESPECT. It doesn’t get you any cool points, contrary to wishful thinking. It didn’t work in high school, and it doesn’t work when you’re an adult.

PRIVATE DETAILS SHOULD STAY PRIVATE. Private details that have become public should be ignored. Even if “everyone knows about it,” don’t talk about it. It can be hard to let other people deal with their own lives. You know what’s more difficult? Being the subject of gossip.

YOU GOSSIP BECAUSE YOU’RE NOT THINKING. Think, think, THINK about how the subject of your gossip would feel if they overheard the conversation. Toughen up, and keep your mouth shut.

GOSSIPING MAKES YOU A TARGET. The people you share gossip with are more likely to gossip about you one day. Why? Because they will lose trust in you. Everyone screws up sometimes, and the moment you do anything remotely shady, you will be the new target of rumors and speculation.

THE BEST WAY TO RESPOND TO GOSSIP is by changing the subject. Replace the gossipy conversation with a question: How did your day go? Read anything interesting lately? What do you think of this Prop 8 business? Build connections with people rather than tearing them down.

STAND UP TO DESTRUCTIVE GOSSIPERS. When appropriate, be direct. Say, “I don’t care who Jane slept with.” Worried about losing a gossiper as a friend? Don’t be. Friendships built on gossip lack depth and loyalty.

BUILD TRUST. If someones shares something personal with you, assume it’s private. Be a vault. Respect others’ privacy, forgive as often as you can, and you will be well-regarded in your community.

Are you one of the silent majority who secretly hates gossip? Share this and take a stand.

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