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Elevating The Conversation Beyond Gossip

July 19, 2013

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A few years ago, for Lent, while everyone around me was giving up chewing gum and chocolate, I gave up gossip. One day, when trying to discuss the deadlocked presidential election with friends, I realized that no one was interested. 

A neighbor was getting divorced and that was all that mattered. 

I was frustrated and when I really thought about it, I realized that many of my conversations with friends referenced other people.

I didn’t like it. 

They were not malicious conversations, just little comments about who got a new car or who was going on vacation, who was moving or having another baby. It was just the busy small talk of playgrounds and preschool parking lots, but it wasn’t right, not to mention boring and potentially hurtful and I’d had enough. 

I tried not to engage, I'd just stand there, with my toddler and smile, but I would get looks, like I was withholding top secret information. 

If I walked away, said I didn’t want to participate, I was a snob.  

Unbelievably, when I decided to give up talking about other people's business, an undesirable behavior that has become so mainstream, I found that I needed a socially acceptable excuse not to engage. Of course, if this occurred today, I would’ve just walked away…to brand new friends, but during that time, I was a new mommy, staying at home and I was trying to fit in. 

So in those days, before middle age cured me of all those insecurities, a simple “I’m sorry, I gave up gossip for Lent,” was all it took to get me out those rumor fueled conversations.  

Who was going to argue with my religion….which actually doesn’t condone gossip, anyway. It was usually met with a giggle, but it worked. It also became the motivation I needed to keep my mouth shut.  

It is, after all, sometimes hard not to engage in such conversations and I would be lying if I said I still didn't slip up every now and then. 

It was my first meditation teacher, a wise old sage, who told me to frame conversations about others in this way - Before you speak about another person, ask yourself is this information truthful and, more importantly, is it helpful?  

Powerful words indeed, quoted from Buddha, full of responsibility and they made me think.  

Whenever I chatted, I was always pretty sure my information was truthful, but was any of it helpful?  

Probably not.  

It was just idle conversation to pass the time, but that didn't make it right.

Once I told people that I could not partake, the conversation usually moved on to more interesting subjects.  

If it didn’t, then I eventually moved on to more interesting people.  

There are so many wonderful individuals out there who would rather focus on current events and ideas, and as I have aged, I find that I naturally gravitate toward them.

Of course, there are times, when it is acceptable to speak about others, when it is helpful, but if the conversation is just for chatter’s sake, I smile and walk away now, because for me, it doesn’t matter if it's July.

Because even after all these years, when it comes to gossip, it’s always Lent.

What are your feelings about gossip?

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  1. Wonderful message, Kim. The wisdom that comes with getting older is a great thing!

    1. Yes JoAnne~wisdom...and it distracts me from the crow's feet! :)

  2. I love this and the Eleanor Roosevelt quote is wonderful. Excellent message and wouldn't it be nice if every day was Lent for everyone when it came to gossip? There are so many other things to talk about and more important to say the least! Great post!

    1. Thanks Linda, I really like this quote, too. I actually like a lot of her quotes~ strong woman, strong opinions!

  3. What a great idea to give up gossip for Lent! I'm gong to share that idea around here!

    1. Share away, Darcy! Glad the post spoke to you! :)

  4. I'm sure giving up gossip was harder than giving up chocolate, but I'm also sure it was better for you. I love the concept of elevating the conversation; you've inspired me to eschew the gossip too.

    1. Dana, it was very hard, to be honest, I think it is part of our human nature (or at least a really bad habit), but it is very freeing and leaves room for so many more interesting and important conversations.

  5. I love this! To share in kind, in high school I had to plan a single speech to give to my peers. My topic was similar, and my message was sharing that death and life are in the power of the tongue. I think of that often, especially when speaking to children, whose hearts are most vulnerable.

    1. Agreed 100%. I also think that so many of us forget that our children are listening to us all the time, learning from our behaviors. Great point, Yvonne.