It starts with whispers in the playground. Two little ones, not much older than five or six; quietly share information with one another about what they heard or what they saw. The information might be true, it might not be. But the result is a relationship between these two that is cemented by a willingness to share information and a separation from the one being talked about. This will continue throughout their school years with allegiances changing often with no explainable reason. Adults will continue the practice sometimes until their dying day. The results can often be hurtful and destructive. The gossip floating around us can either help or hurt our career and can do the same with our self esteem. How do we make the most of that gossip? It starts with asking the right questions.
What to when people gossip about you
Who am I?
How we see ourselves is important in this process of personally developing ourselves toward being the best version of ourselves as possible. When I was born there were some complications with my birth so the doctor told my very young parents not to expect too much out of me. Being young they took the doctor’s opinion as fact and sat me in front of the television and proceeded to not to expect too much out of me. I have often wondered what my life would have been like if I would have continued with that identity for the rest of my life. Fortunately for me I had a teacher in the first grade who told them that was silly. I had all of the potential in the world for good or for evil. Now that is an identity. As people gossip about us we need to be honest with whom we are at our core. Establish a healthy, positive identity and surround yourself with others who can reinforce that identity. Gossip hurts us when we are feeling insecure and uncertain. Establishing our identity in healthy and honest terms will take the power away from the gossip or will lend it even more power when it benefits us.
What is truth?
I love action and superhero movies. Unlike real life we know as we watch most of these who the good guys are as well as the bad guys. What is like real life;is that rarely do the villains see themselves as villains. They see themselves as heroes on a cause. It might be a very selfish cause but in their mind it is righteous and right. When someone gossips about us it should create a great opportunity to examine the truth behind the words. If the gossip is positive but you know that it is not true you will either need to live up to the hype somehow or work to change that view quickly. Alternatively if the gossip is negative and turns out to be true, you will want to make some new choices. There is great power in using this gossip to catapult your life into the next level of development.
Where are they coming from
It has been said that if someone was standing on each of the four corners of the street when a traffic accident takes place and then each would be interviewed they would each have a different story to tell. All four would tell the truth but they each would see the events from different angles. They would come at it with a wide assortment of factors that might enable them to focus on some specific factor that maybe nobody else noticed. Again each person is telling the whole truth, but they are all seeing it with limited knowledge and viewpoints. As people gossip about us they might be seeing and hearing things from one particular angle. In my current job I often am out of the office meeting with agencies and individuals around the community. Since I am not sitting at my desk or wandering around the building some might have an opinion that I am a slacker and that I spend all day goofing off. That is the angle that they are seeing me from. It is not truth, I might need to correct that view point by sharing my appointment calendar or maybe not. The point is that I cannot allow that sort of gossip to cloud how I live and work. I cannot do that unless I take time to consider where they are coming from.
How do they benefit from tearing me down?
When people gossip they always have a motive. Maybe they want your job or maybe your spouse. Others will gossip with the hope of feeling better about themselves. I know someone who uses gossip to make friends and be entertaining. Regardless of the reasons it feels better to consider what the possible motives might be so that you can again make adjustments or ignore the gossip as appropriate. When someone chooses to gossip consider the motives. You may or may not be able to get an honest answer to this question but by taking the time to consider possible motives you will be prepared for any repercussions that may come because of the gossip.
Once upon a lifetime ago as it seems today I had a young lady who was working for me who was not doing well. Events in her personal life were making her ineffective at work. Being a man of compassion I was giving her time off and access to resources that would help her. Day after day there was no change and the organization was suffering as a result. After a gentle but heart rending conversation she was fired. It was not long before she had called everyone she knew to attack my character and label me an insensitive baboon. She proceeded to take this argument to leadership two levels above me and worked diligently to get me painted as unreasonable and a poor leader. I did not worry too much because my leadership had been with me on the journey and knew my character. I also knew who I was and I also knew the truth of this situation. It was pretty obvious where she was coming from so that also helped to sooth my wounding. Lastly I had to wonder how this would benefit her. Since even today the relationship is still hostile I don’t know the actual truth. Maybe she felt that by tearing me down she would feel better about her own life. I know that she ultimately continued work in a similar organization so maybe she was able to avoid the part on the application that asks for previous employer references by insulting me. Regardless the gossip was beneficial as I was able to take the time to self examine my own heart and mind. I became a better leader in the future because I have learned to handle the dismissal of employees better and more openly. When people gossip about you what will you learn?