Chances are that sometime in your life you have been hurt by gossip. We probably all agree that gossip is wrong. It spreads negativity in our workplaces and social groups. It is designed to make someone else look bad and to isolate them from the group. It encourages people to take sides and causes us to dwell on the problem rather than explore a solution.
We agree that gossiping is hurtful, but what about venting? When I am upset, I “vent.” After all, I am an external processer, so talking about things helps me work them out. Sharing frustrations is a healthy way to release stress, it can help us cope and it can help us come up with solutions. I need to vent about people who frustrate me so I can behave in more professional ways.
Gossiping is bad, venting is ok, right? Not so fast.
Recently I have been taking a good, hard look at myself. I realize that even venting about someone else with the intention of solving a problem can sow seeds of negativity in a group. When I vent, I trick myself into believing that I have done something when really, I haven’t done anything. It gives me an excuse not to talk or act in relationship-affirming ways. I am not sure at what point in my life I decided that venting was not the same as gossiping and that it was ok, but I am pretty sure I am not the only one.
As of today, no more passes. Here are some of my aspirational goals.
-If I need support, I am going to choose to talk to someone who isn’t part of the community. For example, if I have an issue in a social group, I will talk to someone about it who isn’t in that social group, doesn’t have opinions about the people involved and isn’t invested in the outcome.
-I will seek support from people who are trustworthy and have a good record for keeping things I tell them private.
-I will seek support from someone who will tell me the truth, good or bad.
-After talking about my feelings, I will ask for help coming up with a plan.
-I will track how many times I discuss the same issue. More than 3 times probably means I am finding excuses not to act.
-There are times that we need to talk to a supervisor or leader, for example, when our attempts to resolve issues are unsuccessful or when others are being negatively impacted. I will be thoughtful and deliberate about making this decision.
-I will recognize that the only person’s behavior I can change is my own and try to re-focus on me.
I am sure I won’t always succeed, but I am going to ask people in my life for gentle reminders. I challenge you to try this with me and let me know how it goes!