What to Do if People are Talking About You Behind Your Back

by JUDY TSUEI

Recently, I received a LINE message from a client who said, “Please let me know if there’s anything I can do.” I had no idea what she was referring to until the pieces began to fall together and I came to realize that someone who had once been close to me had written about me on Facebook, which then caused a chain reaction of concern that eventually reached me.
As I became privy to what was written about me, I had to take a step back to breathe. My mental health, personal character, and role as a parent were being talked about in a very public space. If I were any outside person who read those words, I would also be very concerned — both for the person being talked about and for the person writing the post.
Thankfully, through honest conversation with my client, I cleared up what could have been disastrous. She listened with kindness and generosity, and still chose to move forward with our working together — though if she had believed the gossip, it could have taken an entirely different turn.
Later, a mutual friend who also saw the Facebook post reached out to me and shared, “I’m a smart enough person to know that there are two sides to every story.” But, not everyone has that same perspective and some will immediately believe what’s being said.

WHEN IT COMES TO GOSSIP, WHAT’S THE BEST WAY TO HANDLE IT?
Everything we experience as humans is subjective. We each have our own unique lens through which we view the world, colored by our previous experiences, value systems, and level of open-heartedness.
Gossip – casual conversion or talking about other people, typically
involving details that aren’t confirmed as true – isn’t a hard-line, black-or- white situation. It’s something we all participate in, and usually starts out innocently enough.
Maybe someone said or did something that offended you, and you’re not okay with it. Maybe your boss got angry at you, when you felt like it wasn’t deserved. Maybe a friend promised you to show up to a specially- made plan, but couldn’t make it at the last minute and you were left feeling vulnerable, or hurt.
Rather than bravely confronting the person who offended you, it’s often easier to have a reaction to the situation, then go around gathering evidence that proves your feelings are valid and just. That’s when we start reaching out and talking to others. We want a support group that agrees with us, especially with feelings of empathy or compassion, like “Oh, I can’t believe he did that to you, too!” or “She said what?!”
Approaching problems in this way isn’t helpful, because it’s not seeking advice to reach a healthy solution. Instead, it’s venting — or gossip.
In order to avoid gossip, you need to go directly to the source. Approach the person who caused the problem. Gather the courage and grace to speak your truth about something that is important to you, as you aim to set the story straight and reach a positive conclusion.
When you go behind someone’s back, and convince others to believe in your negative opinion, chances are that you’re only telling your version of what happened, which does not leave room for the big picture. It’s exclusive, rather than inclusive. And, in the end, it does much more harm than good.

ARE YOU THE ONE WHO’S GOSSIPING?
Gossip stories can be rooted in a seed of truth, or at least the perspective on truth the person sharing the gossip believes, and may range from hearsay to actual slander. While most people don’t intentionally want to “trash” the person they’re talking about, the impact of gossip can be severe, especially when you’re doing it in a public platform, which is what social media has become.
If you’re the person starting the gossip, think about this hard truth: you’re afraid — and you’re manipulating your listeners.
You may be afraid of confrontation. You may be afraid of the truth.
You may be afraid of being seen in a way other than how you would hope others would view you.
Ultimately, you’re afraid of dealing with the situation in an adult way.
When you can let go of the fear, you have an opportunity to be an example of living authentically, and showing up as a real leader. Gossip has a toxic effect, because it strips you of your power to change what you don’t like, undermines your own heartfelt intentions, and damages relationships.

TO BE PERFECTLY BLUNT, GROW UP AND HAVE A CONVERSATION WITH SOMEONE
Yes, it’s scary, but it’s not impossible. Instead of rallying sympathy on your side, what if you could simply go to the source of the situation and get what you really need — understanding, connection, and resolution. The effects can be immediate and life-changing. But, you have to be courageous enough to show up differently. Can you do it?

HOW TO STOP THE GOSSIP AND SET THE STORIES STRAIGHT
When you’re the person being gossiped about, your ego can absolutely get activated. Maybe you want to fight back with words of your own. Maybe you want to set the story straight. Maybe you feel like walking the high road and won’t avenge where you’ve been wounded. In fact, it may be cold comfort to remind you that the gossip reveals more about the person saying the thing than it does about you.
It requires a very conscious individual to choose to show up in the light, rather than get drawn into the shadows. As life coach and speaker Lisa Nichols says, “Speak about others in a way that at the end of your life, you could be on a stage sharing your stories, and the person who’s hurt you the most could be in the audience, and still be seen with dignity and respect.”
Ultimately, you’re only impacted by what you let in. Marisa Peer, voted the U.K.’s top therapist, shares four simple responses whenever you’re getting unhelpful feedback:

1.“Thank you for sharing that. I choose not to let it in.”
a. Think of your conversation like a game of tennis, where you simply put down your racquet and walk off the court.
2. “I missed that. Could you repeat that for me? Slowly?”
a. When you do this, you give the
other person an opportunity to realize what they’re doing and you’re essentially calling them out on their behavior.
3. “Oh, are you trying to make me feel bad about myself? Are you trying to hurt my feelings?”
a. Bullying is defined by a person
diminishing you to embellish themselves, and this approach holds a mirror up to them.
4. “Since we’re being honest and sharing, and you’re being critical, you’re actually showing me what you don’t really like about yourself.”
a. Happy people praise, while people who feel inadequate criticize. If you don’t let it in, it can’t hurt you, and instead, the other person is left holding their words or feelings.

WHAT IF YOU’RE AN INNOCENT BYSTANDER?
Every time you listen to gossip about someone, you internalize it and keep it as a file in your brain. Then, whenever you see that person afterward, you’ll remember the gossip — it’ll change how you feel about them, how you treat them, and how you interact. Your relationship becomes more superficial, and you lose the opportunity to create a deep connection.
At the end of the day, every single one of us simply wants to be accepted as we are. It hurts when we’re not. We want to be connected to other people, but sometimes, the fear of connection is so immense that we don’t know how to handle our disappointments when we show up vulnerably, and we’re not received the ways we want to be.
The more you talk about things, the more momentum it creates. So, if you can stop talking, stop listening, or stop engaging in gossip, the power of it falls away.
You create your own reality. Create one you’d like to be living.
And, remember, the more you hold your head up high and keep your heart open to love over fear, the more you can be like the 6’3” pro-volleyball player and speaker, Gabrielle Reece, who says, “It’s a small thing for a giant.”

Judy Tsuei is a travel writer, life coach and mama who empowers women to heal and thrive by helping them to rewrite their personal stories into beautiful journeys of heroines. Judy can be reached at: www.wildheartedwords. com.

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