Talking Behind Friends' Backs
How to Stop Talking About Friends Behind Their Backs
Is that juicy nugget of information about your buddy nagging at you, begging you to release it to the rest of your friends? Do you feel the urge to gossip about others behind their back in order to make yourself look like the joker in the group or to make yourself a little more interesting? It might seem like a temptingly good idea at the time, to dump your friend right in the middle of a funny tale or an embarrassing moment but your friend won't think so... In fact, your friend will be questioning your loyalty along with your lack of tact.
If you talk about your pals behind their back, think about how it is likely to make them feel. Before you pass along one more morsel of information, stop and think about what you're doing. Then make a pact with yourself to stop talking about friends behind their back for good.
Explore what you think lies behind your urge to talk about your friends or share a piece of juicy gossip about a pal.Perhaps you think that it's harmless fun and perhaps you even feel a little proprietary over the information because it is aboutyourfriend after all. Or perhaps you think that dropping your friend's secrets or most embarrassing moments into the middle of a conversation will be funny and spares you having to say anything of the sort about yourself. Or are you currently unhappy with your life and talking about other friend’s misfortune or misery feeds your soul? Whatever the motivation behind your loose tongue, you need to get to the root of why you find it's okay to talk behind the back of your friends, in order to know how to stop. Consider which of the following is most applicable to you:
- Insecurity: People who are not comfortable in their own skin and who have insecurities will often pick apart others in order to feel better. And unfortunately, this can sometimes include those close to you, whose inner thoughts you know best of all, simply because you don't feel secure enough to find less personal topics of conversation with people who awe or overwhelm you.
- Boredom: Feel as if your life is totally boring and without excitement? Dragging out other’s dirty laundry can get the conversation started and cook up some thrills. However, this displays a lack of creativity in your conversation skills, so salving your boredom with your friend's information is both lazy and disloyal.
- Revenge: Some people may be angry with a friend and feel that the only way they will feel vindicated is to talk about them behind their back––whether they already hashed it out with the friend or not. Revenge as a motivation for doing anything is always a total fail when it comes to living a fulfilling life; it reveals a lack of self-respect, a lack of respect for others and a lack of self-restraint or personal responsibility for your actions. A friend never deserves having their dirty laundry aired as a panacea for your own annoyance or unhappiness with them.
- Protection: You may feel wronged, and want to warn other people in your circle of the "dangers" of having this person in their life represents. Consider that we often feel like victims in friendship by minor things, like selfishness, that really represent little danger to anyone. If this is the case, let your friends make up their own minds.
- Humor: During these sarcastic times when sitcom and reality TV stars hurl insults as if they were nothing, some folks think they are being funny by making snarky remarks about friends behind their back. Unfortunately for the air-headed TV "role models", funny doesn't even come into the equation and copying them is a sign of letting the brain go on vacation. Humor does not stoop to condescension, belittlement or gossip; if it does, it's not humor, it's muckraking.
- Thoughtlessness: You've assumed that since your friend seems to have a thick skin, that it's okay to talk about them without consideration for their feelings. Your frienddoeshave feelings; they're just not flaunting them. At least you've got the gumption to admit you've been thoughtless. Now it's time to turn things around.
Consider the kind of damage you're doing.If you were to stop and recall your words and think about what you said, what kind of damage are you doing to another person? Place yourself into your friend's place and think about how you would feel if the things you've been saying to others were said about you by your friend. Suddenly it's not such a nice feeling when looked at this way. Your friend may be hurt by gossip, rumor mongering or exaggerated negative embellishment about their lives in one or more of the following ways:
- Personal reputation: Spreading gossip about another person, whether it’s true or not, can harm a person's reputation irreparably, especially since it's coming from a close source. Consider whether your gossiping ways are potentially destroying your friend’s reputation. If so, why do you believe you should bring down your friend like this? If you're gossiping because you seek revenge, this is no way to resolve your conflict. If it's because of thoughtlessness or a desire to look better at your friend's expense, it's time to stop feeling sorry for yourself and start realizing that what you're doing is bringing about real harm.
- Business reputation: Are you ruining your friend’s livelihood just for personal fodder or perhaps even out of jealousy? Consider what your words could be doing to your friend’s financial security and business prospects. Think about how your rumor mongering could impact not only your friend, but also his or her family and staff.
- Family reputation: Even though you may be talking about your friend, your words could hurt his or her family, including your friend's children. Family members are innocent bystanders and should not be hurt or damaged by your words.
Get savvy in your communications.Know the difference between damaging gossip, venting to friends or simply conveying information about a friend. In some cases, you may be spreading great news about a friend without realizing that your friend might have preferred to keep it secret a while more (such as being pregnant or getting a job promotion). Or, you may be simply venting about a fight you had with one close friend, without thinking too hard about how this sounds to listeners outside of your inner circle. Knowing the difference between indiscriminately talking behind a friend’s back versus delivering information is important:
- Venting/clearing the air. We all need to let off some steam and if you’ve had a fight with a friend, you may want to consult with another pal to help you through the issue. Talking with a trusted friend whom you know without a doubt won’t talk about your discussion with others should be fine in most cases. Talking it out may provide you with insight and help you arrive at conflict resolution with your other friend. Avoid saying nasty things or calling your other friends names. Moreover, venting continuously to numerous people moves into gossipy territory.
- Gossip/talking behind a friend’s back. Taking information that has nothing to do with you (or in some cases information that does but is highly confidential) and freely discussing it with numerous people is considered to be gossip.
- Passing along news. For example, when a close friend has a baby, telling a bunch of people is not considered to be gossip provided your friend gives you her or his blessing to tell the world. On the other hand, if she has had three miscarriages in a row and doesn't want anyone to know she's pregnant again until she knows this baby is safely coming to term, saying anything without her permission is talking behind her back.
Face facts.Ask yourself what talking about others says about you. Consider how you end up looking when you talk about friends behind their back. Most likely the friends you gossip to may not trust you with personal information in the future and will distance themselves from you. You may also look insecure and possibly vindictive if you have become the town crier; this risks losing more than just the friend or friends about whom you have gossiped, as other friends realize that you can't be trusted. When you think about talking about another friend behind that friend’s back, think about how negative that makes you appear and how even those in receipt of your information will be thinking twice about trusting you.
- Make a concerted effort to put yourself in your friend’s shoes during a discussion. Do you like it when people talk or gossip about you behind your back? Do you know what your friends think about you? Before you open your mouth to talk about a juicy morsel of gossip, insert your name into the sentence such as, “Oh my God, I can’t believe that (name) filed for foreclosure!” Would you want everyone to know you filed for foreclosure? If you might be embarrassed, think about how your friend might feel; it's probably exactly the same.
Button up.Mentally or physically excuse yourself from a conversation that becomes too full of gossip, to avoid "falling into" gossip games or socializing-by-demoralizing. One of the best ways to stop talking about others behind their back is to back away from any conversation that stoops to the level of gossiping. For example, if you're in a group of friends and one friend’s name is brought up regarding her affair, don’t add any information you may have. You could let others do the talking and stay quiet but it might also be appropriate to speak up and suggest that it's inappropriate to speak about someone who is not there to defend themselves. Of course, be tactful and don't start trash talking anybody participating in the conversation either!
- Don’t speculate about any person. You may be dying to jump into the conversation even though you don’t have any information, but hold back. Don’t speculate––just refuse to participate in any muckraking.
- Try to guide the conversation away from gossip. Bring the discussion back to the here and now where the people present during the conversation are either talking about what is going on in their own lives or discuss a new hot trend or topic.
- Walk away if you can’t control yourself. You're better off leaving the discussion rather than jumping in and contributing. If your friends ask your opinion simply say, “I really don’t know anything about it” and leave it alone.
Increase your respect factor.If you've been using gossip about your friends as a social crutch, it is time to wake up from the fugue. Whatever has driven you to talk about friends behind their backs, much of this comes down to learning to respect both yourself and others more. In particular, if you have been using gossiping as a means for making yourself look better or as a way to fit in more with others, then it's definitely time to reassess why you'd rather appear popular with strangers than to feel loyal toward and contented with the friends who are a significant source of support, loyalty and trust in your life.
- Help yourself to heal past hurts that might have lead to gossiping habits, by letting go of old wounds, forgiving the errors others have made toward you and forgiving yourself for having given in to an age-old human vice. If revenge has been eating away at you for some time, forgiveness will help you to finally let go.
- Promise yourself that you will not repeat the backstabbing talk and that you will catch yourself if you start it up again and stop immediately. It really is that basic when it comes to stopping yourself from spreading tales.
- Bear in mind that friendship is a source of healing and regeneration. Instead of turning away from it, turn into it and stay loyal.
- Find more constructive ways to communicate with people in social settings that make you feel uncomfortable or left out. If your conversation skills need a boost, learn ways to find better topics of conversation. If your nerves are shredded in public, learn how to cope better through increasing your confidence. If you're suffering from a social phobia, get help to overcome it. Using gossip about friends is never a substitute for improving yourself.
Apologize to your friend if need be.If your friend learns that you have been gossiping about him or her, be strong and apologize. Whether or not your friend is willing to accept this apology is beside the point––you need to stop and turn over the new leaf somewhere and this is a significant and symbolic gesture to make.
Strive from this point forward to speak only well of your friends.Remember and observe this wise old saying: "Divide all people into two groups: friends and strangers. Friends are loved too much to gossip about, strangers are known too little."
QuestionI talked a lot of crap about my friend and now regret it, but she won't forgive me. What can I do?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerWrite your friend a heartfelt letter letting her know how much you regret your actions and promising not to repeat them. If she chooses to forgive you, it may be a while before trust is fully re-established. If she chooses not to forgive you, chalk it up to a learning experience and move on.Thanks!
QuestionI feel like I have been gossiping in the past and now I'm trying to start a good life, but whenever I try, people come and gossip or ask me questions about people. What should I do?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerIf you are trying to become gossip sober, when people start to talk about people that way or treat you as if you are still a gossip, you need to stop and tell them, "No, this topic is done and we will discuss something else because this is rude."Thanks!
QuestionIs it wrong to dislike your friend? She really likes me as a friend, but I just hate her and I don't know why.wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerThink about why you hate her, go through your memories, see why. If it is a good reason to dislike her, like she did something unforgivable, then it is okay. If not, then try to find a reason to like her.Thanks!
QuestionI talked behind my friend's back and now I feel bad because the other kids said they are going to make fun of her a lot. What can I do?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerConfront your friend about it and apologize. If she's a good friend, maybe she'll see you are sincerely sorry and will understand.Thanks!
QuestionI talked behind my friend's back and she told me we were never friends (but we were). What can I do? I've been crying for a few days and she blocked me on Snapchat and Instagram.wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerYou should apologize to her. And you have to really mean it. You have to be willing to change yourself, or else she's not going to accept you at all. If she still doesn't accept your apology after a few tries, then give up. Sometimes, you just have to deal with the consequences.Thanks!
QuestionWhat do I if one of my friends is talking about another friend behind their back and saying mean things to me about them?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerYou could first ask them to stop and tell them it is mean, or you could go and hang out with different people, maybe bring the person they are talking about too.Thanks!
QuestionHow can I stop talking about my best friend with my friends?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerTell your friends that you truly love your best friend and if they don't appreciate that, they'll stop being your friends. If that happens you'll still have your best friend. Just appreciate that gossiping is bad and that even if you've done it, you've learned, and they haven't. Just stop.Thanks!
QuestionI talked about this girl who's mean to me behind her back, and one of her friends heard. What should I do, especially if she confronts me?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerShe will probably not come up to you and talk about it, since that requires a lot of courage. If she does I think you should just be honest. This might even stop her from being mean to you, so this could even work out for you in a positive way!Thanks!
QuestionMy friend thinks I'm talking about her behind her back but I'm not. She's really mad and telling everyone I'm a backstabber. What do I do?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerTell her "If you were a real friend, you would believe me when I tell you I'm not talking about you behind your back." Give her a little time and space, if she continues to be upset with you, find a new friend.Thanks!
QuestionMy two friends are in an argument and they like to talk about each other to me. I'm basically in the middle. What can I do?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerEncourage them to talk to each other and give them advice that would help them and not fuel the fire. Avoid being negative, and try to point it back to the root problem they are having.Thanks!
- Mother knew best when she said: “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.”
- Think about what you say before you say it, because the consequences will affect you too. Just like the old adage that says, "You can't un-ring a bell" you can't unsay something unkind. Err on the side of good faith. If someone did something "stupid" consider that they see good reason for it, and let it go at that.
- Explore why you have problems with trust. Talking behind your friends back all the time is about breaching trust, constantly. Why do you feel that this is okay to do and what are you going to do to build trust, rather than destroy it?
- The more you gossip, the more facts can become distorted, often warping the truth. This might make for a good story but unfortunately, mud has a habit of sticking, so no matter how fantastical the gossip might appear to anyone with an objective perspective, for those deeply mired in the gossip, it can seem all too real.
- Teach your children not to gossip, then set the example for them.
- If you have a personality disorder that influences your inability to remain loyal to those closest to you, seek therapeutic help. This is as much about your own self-esteem confidence.
- Talking about friends behind their back will most likely result in the loss of the relationship.
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