Sometimes It’s Best to Talk About the Weather
Rumors and gossip are food for fodder, not meaningful communication.
“Remember, the rumors you hear about me are as true as the ones that I hear about you.” ~ Anonymous
There’s a logic behind the statement that, “If you don’t know what to talk about, talk about the weather.”
The weather isn’t personal and it’s something everyone can comment on. It also avoids spiraling downward into personal, hurtful talk about others. You know, that thing called gossip.
My parents did not tolerate gossiping and rumors in my home and quickly put an end to any they heard. My mother had a distaste for what she referred to as “that type of talk” and my father made it a point not to express his opinions on others freely. He waited until he had the whole story before forming one, and didn’t share it unless he was asked.
He lived by, “There are always two sides to every story” and this was great training. Anytime I feel tempted to bad mouth someone, I hear my parents’ voices in my head.
Confront Rumors and Gossip
My mother often said:
“You should never repeat anything you hear because you’ll probably find out it isn’t’ true and you’re guilty of telling a lie.”
I never forgot this.
I saw my mother confront gossip. The first time was in a grocery store. A group of women huddled together talking about our neighbor who was “divorced.” Fifty years ago, divorce was uncommon and it was a big deal if you got one.
A failure of sorts, and of course it was the woman’s fault.
My mother heard her friend’s name and walked over to the group.
“I want you to know that Lee is my friend. She comes to my house every day and cries her eyes out because her husband left her. And you should be ashamed.”
They were. They scattered without looking back.
My mother was also guilty once of gossip. She had repeated something about someone she had a disagreement with. She thought it was true and found out it was not. My sister and I heard mom dialing the phone and then apologizing to this person.
“I said something about you that wasn’t true. And if you hear it, I want you to know that I spread it. I’m sorry.”
At the time, I thought she was crazy. Not anymore.
What’s there to talk about besides other people?
There are so many other things to talk about, that someone’s personal business should not be in the running. That’s not to say I’ve never gossiped or never will again. But I catch myself and change the subject.
It takes work and yes, I can do better.
It’s easy to get caught up in the he said, she said world of gossip. If it’s to warn someone about potential danger, then your words are being used as they were intended: to convey information. Language is the gift of speech bestowed on humans, only. And we shouldn’t abuse it.
If you’re taking pleasure in someone’s misfortune, and I’m not saying that some people don’t deserve to be slammed, or repeating information you’re not sure is correct, you’re gossiping. And possibly lying.
Legally, this is called slander.
If you don’t like hearing little white lies about yourself from others, then do not listen to or repeat the ones you hear. Especially if you know nothing about that person. You could very well be the topic of conversation at some point when you’re not present to defend yourself.
The Truth Should Come First
“A lie can run round the world before the truth gets it boots on.” ~ Terry Pratchett
We’ve all witnessed situations such as courtroom verdicts that did not erase suspicion of guilt.
The news media has made a business out of reporting the negative and making rumors their top story. They back up these rumors by talking to other people who believe them as well. But very often, beliefs are based on lies people build their world around.
By the time the truth arrives, our attention has moved to another topic and the lies remain.
For instance, I live in a small town that is a gossip mill. Years ago, a parent accused the owner of one of the daycares of molesting their child. It was a lie.
This lie made it into the newspapers, around the town, and finally into the courtroom. Thankfully, the truth prevailed, and then came out. The parent owed the daycare money. Sadly, the child had been molested, but not at the daycare.
Due to the gravity of the charge, the judge called for the media to come into the courtroom where he not only dismissed the case, but publicly apologized to the innocent defendant.
Even then, there were whispers around the town about him.
The truth had come out. But the lies prevailed.
Gossip is More Than Poor Etiquette
Gossiping and spreading rumors shows a lack of character and good judgment. Especially if you’re meeting people for the first time. You don’t know who they know or what they know.
You could be setting yourself up for an embarrassing awakening.
It’s rude to pull people into conversations when the topic is another person. And you certainly won’t make a good impression.
But more than being rude, gossip is damaging to another person, their life, their families, and maybe even their livelihoods. Do you really need to know something this personal about someone you may not even know?
No one should use the power of their words to destroy someone.
And not meaning to do it doesn’t count.
Rumors can be correct, but for the most part, they are fabricated.
If you’re in a conversation that turns to the exchange of ugly rumors, bring this to the group’s attention. Gossiping is so common for some people that they aren’t aware they’re doing it.
Ask them how they know the information they’re spreading. Chances are their source is unreliable. Or the rumor started with them.
Let it end with you. Change the topic, and if that doesn’t work, find someone else to talk to.
- You can’t untell a lie. Once you’ve said it, it’s out there. Don’t repeat everything you hear.
- Never judge someone based on another person’s interpretation of them. There’s usually a motive behind their words, and it’s most likely not good. Perhaps the person the gossiper is berating has a different opinion about something and refused to back them up. Or they stood up to gossip when they felt they were wrong. Maybe the person who’s being lied about is too successful or attractive. Jealousy is alive and well.
- Listen to what people say and take it with a grain of salt. Weigh their words against your own good judgment.
- Go with your gut, your intuition, and it will usually lead you in the right direction.
And remember, you can always talk about the weather.