We’ve all be there. You’re in a Starbucks enjoying your latte with a friend. Without warning, the conversation shifts towards a mutual friend and shades that friend in a negative light. Relational wisdom from Proverbs teaches, “Whoever utters slander is a fool” (Proverbs 10:18 ESV). What do you do? Do you listen and validate? Do you ignore what’s being said? Do you scold and correct? Eeesh! Right?
If we want to honor others in our families, communities, and work places, we need to figure out a way to silence negative discussions about other people.
I read this Psalm like version of Ephesians 4:29-30 recently:
Blessed are those
Who whisper not secrets about friends,
Nor murmur rumors about acquaintances,
Nor shout lies about foes.
But they delight in building others up…
(Taken from Discovering Hope in the Psalms, by Pam Farrel and Jean E. Jones and Karla Dornacher, p. 20)
I love that paraphrase! God takes honoring others very seriously, and so we need to as well. And before I give you a few suggestions, I want to be clear. We’ve all been guilty, myself included! Praise God for grace, right? But together we can hold each other accountable. So here are a few suggestions and I’d love to hear from you! How have you gently shut down gossip?
3 Ways to Gently Shut Down Gossip
Say something positive. My daughter Keri was at a party for her husband’s job when someone asked, “Have you met Daphene? She’s kind of weird?” Keri’s radar immediately went up. She takes honoring others very seriously, and so she responded, “Yes, I did meet Daphene and I liked her very much!” Instantly, the conversation shifted to shade Daphene in a positive light, and Keri sent a clear message that she wasn’t going to participate in gossip.
Softly express your concerns. If you notice that gossip is a repeated pattern in your circle of friends or in your company, gently and softly express your concerns. You could say something like, “Hey, I really value our relationship, but I’m working on not cutting others down. Would you be willing for us to hold each other accountable to only build others up?” In this way, you’re not shaming the person who has gossiped because likely you’ve done it yourself. And we all need to work on this.
Ask, “Have you voiced your concern directly to ________________________(Put in the name of the person being talked about)?” Often in close communities or working relationships, there’s frustration with one person or another. Rather than listening to gossip, challenge the person who is gossiping to go directly to the other person to voice their concerns. This principle is clearly taught in Matthew 18:15.
Here’s the thing. The world has become increasingly negative—what if you and I were to become part of the solution by building others up? What if people knew they couldn’t gossip with you because you value others and express that? What if you helped change your church, community, or company by creating a culture of honor? Wouldn’t that be amazing? I’m in—are you?
I really want to hear from you on this issue! So here’s the deal: I will be giving away 3 copies of How to Listen So People Will Talk to 3 people who leave a comment on this blog. Here’s the question:
What have you done to gently shut down gossip in your circles?
I’ll announce the winners on Thursday, August 17! So please share your thoughts so we can work on this together!
Thank you Becky for your insight. Gossip is always a struggle in the church. Too many times things are shared as “prayer requests” with way too much information being shared. I have expressed that we do not need to share all the specific details for God already knows them. Everyone does not need to know them in order to pray for a person or their circumstances. Gossip is never good and causes harm in many ways.
I have taught from the pulpit on this subject in the past two years. Some have heard and heeded the message and others continue to gossip. When someone is in “gossip mode” in your presence, shut them down either by calling them out on it or shifting/diverting the conversation away from the topic.
It is far better to share words of edification to build up one another than to spread words of pain that cause pain.
Thanks so much, Jeff! I’m thankful for pastors who are preaching how dangerous gossip is!!
blessings to you!!
Needed this today, thanks. Really battling this in our family right now. It’s ugly. Please pray.
When I have been in gossipy situations I have often tried to change the subject. Some relationships have been toxic for me, so I have distanced myself from certain friends before. I love life giving, not life sucking relationships. It’s been years of learning boundaries and implementing them to be healthy. Some friends are forever and some are for seasons. Boy does it get complicated when it comes to family though. I’ve realized that I need to take these issues to the Lord instead of rehashing them with certain people. It just stirs the pot and makes things worse.
Yes, Heather, it is very complicated with family. Praying for you as you figure out how to respond!!
Blessings and Hugs