“You are not going to believe what Jill did,” Gabby-Gossip starts. And with much detail she begins to describe the foolish, spiteful actions of a mutual acquaintance.
And even though she’s only spoken two sentences, I know Gabby’s tirade is going to be gossip. Not only don’t I need this information, but participation with her will be downright harmful. The problem is, how do I tactfully stop Gabby-Gossip?
These strategies may be just what I need; perhaps you’ll find them helpful, too:
1. Say nothing at all. Refuse to participate.
Just like Thumper said in the Disney movie, Bambi, “If you can’t say somethin’ nice, don’t say nothin’ at all.”
Even scripture backs up the value of silence: “A gossip betrays a confidence, but a trustworthy man keeps a secret” (Proverbs 11:13).
2. Ask, “Why are you telling me this?”
Be aware of the tone of your voice as you ask. Speak with innocence, as if you assume Gabby is sharing for a legitimate reason. Chances are, such a question will catch her off guard. She often has no agenda beyond passing on a juicy bit of unflattering news.
Sometimes Gabby-Gossip prefaces her sharing with the directive, “I’m telling you this so you’ll be able to pray for Jill.”
Perhaps I can stop the flow of details by suggesting, “I’m so glad God knows all the ins and outs of this situation. He also knows Jill’s heart, and I don’t. I will most definitely be praying.” Then change the subject.
3. Insert positive talk.
Perhaps we can share something Jill did recently that was commendable, or highlight one of her character traits we admire.
We could begin by saying, “You know what I appreciate about Jill?” Follow up with an example. Perhaps Gabby will realize her talk has gone off-track and will follow our lead.
Solomon noted, “The lips of the righteous nourish many” (Proverbs 10:21). What a fulfilling purpose to keep in mind for our conversations: to feed nourishing words of wisdom and encouragement into the lives of others.
When we choose to speak positively, it demonstrates respect for others, respect for the One who created them, and respect for ourselves. Kind words also bring positive energy and uplift to a conversation. By contrast, negative talk drains our energy and we feel depressed, discouraged, or even angered as we part company.
4. Seek to help Gabby-Gossip.
If the negative talk centers on a problem between Gabby and Jill, discuss some possibilities to solve the conflict. Turn the conversation from fault-finding to solution-brainstorming.
5. Pray, even as you speak.
Without the wisdom and power of the Holy Spirit, we will fail to solve the problem or win over Gabby-Gossip to positivity. Send up a sky-telegram as the conversation begins. Ask God to direct your thoughts and give you the words to say that will minister to Gabby.
6. Resist the urge to gossip to someone else.
With David we need to pray, “Set a guard over my mouth, O Lord; keep watch over the door of my lips” (Psalm 141:3).
Few of us run the risk of saying too little; it is the opposite that causes trouble! Three little words can guide us, as we think before we speak: Is our next comment true, kind, and necessary?
* * * * * * * * * *
Heavenly Father, I do not want to participate in gossip. Instead I want to be a positive influence, even a force of change. With David, I ask you to set a guard over my mouth. Be my attentive Watchman, God. Even now, in preparation for the next encounter with Gabby-Gossip, I pray for your wisdom and courage to react rightly. Because the bottom line is: I want the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart to be pleasing in your sight, O Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer (Psalm 19:14).
(photo credit: www.dreamstime.com )