If you have ever been the target of gossip, you may have recognized that words can actually hurt! The key is realizing you have power over your emotions and responses even though you cannot control what others say or do.
Take a Step Back
Sometimes the initial impact of gossip can be so emotionally overwhelming that you may panic without fully assessing the situation. At this point, it may be helpful to pause for a moment and take a few deep breaths. According to Russ Harris, the author of “The Happiness Trap," the brain’s natural response to a threat is to trigger a fight or flight response. In prehistoric times this response was necessary to help humans react immediately to prevent them from potentially dying. Your emotions can produce a complex series of physical reactions throughout your body, such as increased heart rate, watery eyes and even change in voice tone. Stepping back from the situation in order to take a deep breath may help you put things into perspective, recognizing that you are not in a life-threatening situation.
Care for Yourself
In an advanced society, social life can become a very important part of an individual’s sense of well-being. Although you are physically safe, you might be clearly aware that words can be painful. To help with this, try finding a person, place or thing that can be used to positively influence your mood. Speaking to someone who will not judge you based on the gossip, such as a therapist, close friend, or relative, can help you to talk openly about your feelings. Spending time in a comforting place can increase your awareness of how safe you are, helping you relax and clear your mind. Additionally, you can choose an object that reminds you to remain positive.
Accept What You Cannot Change
Although gossip can make you feel helpless, in reality, you do have options. According to Dr. Phil McGraw, the first step in getting over being hurt is accepting that the situation is real and there is no way to erase what has happened. After accepting that there are some things you cannot change, you can begin to move forward. Moving forward can include making a conscious effort to either address the gossip directly or indirectly or to totally ignore it.
Prepare to Move Forward
Regardless of how you decide to address the situation, preparation is necessary. Preparing yourself to interact with others regarding the gossip can help you feel less anxious. It may help to think about what you might say either to the person directly or to individuals in your social environment. Even if you decided to ignore the situation, it may be helpful to practice what you might say in order to prevent further inquires.