Sunday, March 7th, 2021

R Shopper Columns


Have you ever had someone come up to you to share some hurtful conversation he heard about you, particularly at your job or perhaps in your church? You can tell that the person sharing this with you is getting a lot out of it. You respond, "Who said that?" The messenger acts as though he is honorable by keeping confidences and says, "I can't tell you." So what are you to do with this information? You cannot address the person making the statement. All you can do with this hurtful information is feel bad and continue working in the organization wondering who is "bad mouthing you." Of course, your motivation and commitment for the organization has been damaged.

One of the ways of handling this passive aggressive person is by asking, "Why are you telling me this if I cannot do anything about it?" Sometimes, asking this question causes the gossiper to realize the damage he has done. Unfortunately, there are some people who never get it. Many gossipers love to be seen as the source of juicy information and somehow, this empowers them and gets them the attention they crave. The gossiper can say hurtful things to you and not feel responsible. You need to make him feel responsible.

If someone is gossiping about another worker or friend, suggest that the gossiper talk with the person about whom he is gossiping. You know you cannot trust the gossiper because if he is sharing hurtful information about another person, nothing keeps him from gossiping about you.

Anything beneath the surface
has power, but when you bring
it out into the light, you
have power over it.

With this in mind, it would behoove you to never share any vulnerable or personal information with that person. You don't know how he will use it and how it will be shared.

Here are some suggestions for handling gossip:

  1. Most gossip comes from factual errors or partial information without details. If you are the one being attacked, bring it out in the open and confront the attacker and the information. Anything beneath the surface has power, but when you bring it out into the light, you have power over it.

  2. Do not join in the gossip. If someone shares it with you, make it clear that you do not want to join in. One way of saying you do not approve is changing the subject or asking the person to talk to the person being attacked.

  3. Discuss gossip at work. A lot of people enjoy gossiping, so it is important for those in charge to make it clear that people need to deal directly with each other, because gossip can hurt morale and productivity.
  4. If you are the target, don't try to get revenge by spreading gossip about the gossiper. He is better at it than you and you are sinking to his level. Besides, revenge doesn't work. Take the higher road.

Dr. William E. Austin is a licensed psychotherapist and holds a Doctor of Divinity degree. He is a therapist with Tidewater Pastoral Counseling Services . He is well known for his warmth and sense of humor. His book, Creating Our Safe Place - Articles on Healthy Relationships, can be purchased through

Tidewater Pastoral Counseling: 623-2700