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Saturday Musings - The Most Destructive Force in the Universe

20190608_gossip The destructive power of gossip.

In this blog I would like to share with you about a force more impactful than a trade war and more destructive than an atomic bomb. Each of these incredibly powerful events are nothing compared to the power that can be unleashed by gossip. Yes, you read that correctly, gossip.

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With the power of an ill-spoken word a friendship can be destroyed, a marriage torn asunder and children estranged. I’ve seen it and I imagine you've seen or even experienced it. In particular, the power unleashed by gossip can undermine an organisation and ruin the synergies of teamwork in a flash.

Gossip is when something is shared in a negative manner and the listener has no ability to influence the situation. It seems pretty innocuous, but it doesn’t take long for the negativity to develop a life of its own.

I can guarantee that the person being shared about will eventually hear about what is being said about them. Could you imagine being them? None of the people they thought were friends and colleagues had their back and stopped the spreading of the vicious hurtful rumour. They end up feeling hurt, disenfranchised and no longer part of the team.

Gossip is so insidious that often starts small and grows and grows! For instance, did you hear that John had a fight with his wife, took off down the pub to drown his sorrows and ended up being found by the police sleeping on a park bench the next morning.

The reality was, John has a great relationship with his wife and had to work on a project at the office until the small hours of the morning. On his way home, he was so tired that he stopped to sit on a park bench to watch the sun rise and fell asleep. A kind officer, who was helping a community initiative, woke him up and asked whether John would like a free cup of coffee.

Let’s imagine that you worked with John and heard the first story painting him as having marital problems, a drunk and in trouble with the police. How do you react? “Oh my gosh! That’s terrible but tell me more”…..or do you back John and ask the person sharing the gossip, “Why are you telling me this? That is not in line with John’s character.”

The second reaction cuts the gossip off while the first gives it power. Let’s imagine an office filled with gossip. John will eventually hear the story about himself and wonder why on earth he’s working so hard with a bunch of people that don’t have his back. He then has to spend a part of his day trying to stamp out the rumour….what a colossal waste of time.

I know this is a contrived example, but I’m sure that many of us have experienced John’s position. It’s not very nice to be on the receiving end of gossip and find that you have to defend yourself against a far “juicer” story than “I was working hard.”

I recently heard a story of a person being gossiped about by someone they highly respected and like John, they found it very hurtful. It was done with the nicest of intensions and wrapped up with a bow of caring….but ultimately it gossip.

How did the person being spoken about handle this situation? They went straight to the gossiper and said, “If you want to know whether I’ve done something or not then ask me, not others.”

If you are in an organisation that is rife with gossip, then there are two ways to shut it down. You can either, refuse to listen to it or tell the gossiper to speak to the person they are talking about.

Always ask yourself the question, “Can I influence this situation” If you can’t, then stop wasting your time by giving a gossip a willing ear. So the next time you hear some juicy gossip determine to take the higher road and have a colleagues back.

Have a great weekend.

Michael

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Friday, 13 December 2019
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