An old Spanish truism asserts, "Whoever gossips to you will gossip about you." Indeed, it is difficult to trust a friend who dishes out personal information about others. You'd like to divulge the details of your broken engagement to your buddy, but you're restrained by the memory of yesterday's conversation, during which your friend shared that, "Jane is about to lose her new marketing job because she has an anxiety attack every time she has to give a presentation, bless her heart." If you value your friendship, it might help to have a frank conversation about gossip and the threat it represents to developing a closer relationship.
Avoid using the word "you" as this will put your friend on the defensive. Instead of saying, "You talk too much about other people," say something along the lines of, "We should check ourselves when we start to talk about others. I would feel awful if someone shared personal information like that about me."
Address gossip as soon as it arises. After your friend has shared, "Kendra lost that last 20 pounds because she made herself throw up," you can say, "I like Kendra, and I'd rather not have that picture in my mind when I see her. Let's talk about something else."
Be specific. Rather than saying, "I wish you would stop gossiping," tell your friend, "It's difficult for me to feel safe telling you about my personal life after you've told me about Adam's cancer diagnosis when he wanted it to be kept a secret." This way, your friend will know exactly what behavior you are referring to.
Give your friend a compliment to go with your admonition against gossiping. Let her know that you believe she is a caring person who picks up on problems in other people's lives that others might not notice. This can help to ease the sting of asking her to refrain from letting you know that she thinks your mutual friend Ellen is interested in a man who's not her husband.
Talk to her when she's calm. Psychology professor Sian Beilock, in an article for "Psychology Today," notes that people are more prone to gossip when they are in a state of psychical or psychological arousal. Asking your friend to stop dishing when her heart rate is elevated from a run or after watching a scary movie might make her feel as though you're asking the impossible.
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