“Without wood a fire goes out; without a gossip a quarrel dies down.” -Proverbs 26:20
You’ve probably noticed that, when someone gets hurt or when conflict arises, people often tell other people about it. Unfortunately, the people they tell often aren’t the ones who perpetrated the offense. This is an unhealthy and destructive practice called gossip. Gossip is when someone says something negative about someone to a person who is neither part of the problem nor the solution.
It has been said,
Great people talk about vision and ideas. Average people talk about things. Small people talk about other people.
I add to that,
Smaller people let them. Even smaller people join them. And even smaller people tell others.
Which of the categories above are you in most of the time? Do you ever fall into any of the “small people” categories? Which category are you in today, and which category do you want to be in going forward? The decision is up to you.
I get asked regularly how I respond to calls and emails so quickly when I get so many. I tell those people that one of the best time-management skills a leader can possess is not to get involved in gossip. It saves hours each week, enabling us to use our time more constructively.
It’s extremely easy to get drawn into gossip. One of the things I do when people try to draw me into that kind of conversation is to ask them, “Am I part of the problem or part of the solution? Or, are you just gossiping about someone else?”
Nearly every time, the person will say, “I’m just seeking your counsel.”
To which, I reply, “Well, I happen to have that person’s number right here in my phone. Why don’t we just call that person right now so you can share with him (or her) what you just shared with me?” Even if I don’t have the other person’s number in my phone, I do give the counsel to go talk to that person and not talk to others.
You would be amazed by how little actual gossip I hear now and how often I can be part of the solution if someone does come to me. They still come for counsel, but they know I will tell them to go talk to the other person after that counsel. That is being part of the solution.
Try this approach. You’ll probably start to notice how many hours each week you would otherwise spend in those negative conversations about other people. We should care enough about others to talk to them directly about the ways in which they have offended us. And if we go in humility, pre-forgiveness, love, and truth, it will usually go well.