by Adaobi Okwy
Some years back, I remember my mum saying that she would stop patronizing her hairdresser because the woman only gossiped about others. My mum said she didn’t want to hear whose husband was cheating, whose son was a loser and who’s daughter was sleeping around.
I was at the salon and three women, including the hairstylist were discussing a fourth party. As the conversation flowed between pidgin English and Yoruba, it became clear to me that they were up to no good. They were effectively demolishing the woman in question through their ‘collective knowledge’ of everything about the woman who wasn’t there to defend herself. I would have quickly forgotten their gossip but it stayed with me after one of the ladies left and the remaining two began to talk about her. They laughed at her backside, her ‘mummy tummy’, her lazy husband and whoring daughters. I was shocked at the conduct of the women… but I shouldn’t have been. They after all, needed a new topic and why not talk about their friend who just helped them rip apart someone else?
Gossiping is funny business.
Some years back, I remember my mum saying that she would stop patronizing her hairdresser because the woman only gossiped about others. My mum said she didn’t want to hear whose husband was cheating, whose son was a loser and who’s daughter was sleeping around. At that time, I didn’t really see the point in my mother’s issues- gossip kept the neighbourhood buzzing! And these ‘gists’ were thoroughly exciting. What was wrong in being in the ‘know?’. Besides, they would just use her as their next default topic. I just didn’t get it.
These days however, I am beginning to get it. In fact, I thoroughly get it now. I once got outside my head as I had a chat with one of my close girlfriends and realized that apart from exchanging ‘tidbits’ about our friends and former classmates, we didn’t have anything deep or honest about ourselves to talk about…and we were supposed to be the best of friends! After that day, I made a decision not to do that anymore and surprisingly, my friend and I rarely talk these days as am often not in the ‘loop’ about the events of other people’s lives. I may lose her friendship eventually but, I’m glad that I don’t have to talk about others anymore.
The truth is men and women gossip and that way, spill the secrets of others. In fact, according to this study , men gossip/spill secrets more often than women. So we shouldn’t pretend that all men talk about is football. But, this write-up isn’t a blame game. It’s about the reality of the prevalence and menace of gossip and how to avoid it.
There are the questions: Does it mean we shouldn’t keep our friends? Should we not relieve stress? As this study suggests that gossip is actually good for us as it helps us relieve stress? (Though putting others down to comfort ourselves sounds unhealthy to me) And, how do we keep up with the ‘buzzings’ in the neighbourhood, after all, if there’s a paedophile out there, we want to know?
Well, let us understand that there are constructive as well as destructive things to say about others. When people open up themselves to us, it is because they trust us. They don’t want to hear their ‘dirty’ stuffs in the public as much as they already struggle with it indoors.
So to help us not gossip destructively, here are few tips:
- Don’t press people for someone else’s secrets. You wouldn’t want that either…so don’t.
- If there’s something you don’t like about your friend, say it to them not to others. A friend of mine will use jokes to tell you your flaws. My brother will use proverbs. Find what works for you and do it. Just don’t tell someone else except if that someone has your friend’s best interests at heart and will help you say it.
- Determine to ask someone directly if you hear they said something hurtful about you. Don’t tell fifty people and not that person. And its childish responding through those friends too.
- Let your friends know that you are in the ‘verfication business’. I tell my friends these days- if you don’t want me to ask him/her, don’t tell me. Will make the ‘gists’ coming to you more genuine.
Talking more to people instead of about or at them, builds your confidence generally. It also makes others trust you more and discourage flippancy around you. And you don’t have to be perfect today…some gossips are thoroughly too irresistible to desist from joining in (celebrity gossips for example) but, the beauty of life includes self improvement. Get conscious about spilling the beans on others… and then stop.
Adaobi Okwy blogs at Adaobi Okwy.com
Op-ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija.