What's the problem with gossip?

Episode 36 in Part 3 of our Introduction series: Getting to know others.

Habits:  Self-control | Be curious

Skills:  Communication | Responsibility

Description:  In this episode, we investigate the issues that come from gossip. We outline how gossiping can harm your relationships and the trust others have in you and identify a number of ways that you can help yourself avoid gossip. 


How this lesson might be discussed with your child

This episode further explores the theme of building great relationships, this time looking at the negative habit of gossip. 

We outline the downsides that come with gossiping (reduced trust, looking petty or mean spirited, and bringing others down), and then outline ways to identify and avoid gossiping:

  1. Be mindful of what you're saying – and think about the other person
  2. Focus on changing the topic – and be aware of the people who try to change it back to gossip
  3. Imagine people you're talking about are part of the conversation
  4. Follow a mum's advice – "If you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all"

The problem with gossip, is that it can make you feel included and connected with the people you're talking to at the time, but that's not the real truth. Friendships based on gossip, aren't strong friendships, and you risk being on the receiving end at some point.

When discussing this episode, some questions might include:

  • If we pretty much all gossip at some stage, does that make it a bad habit? Why/Why not?
  • How do you think gossiping can harm your relationships with others? 
  • Are there ever occasions when gossiping is a good thing? When?
  • Why do you think so many people gossip?
  • What do you think you could do to gossip less?
  • Do you think it will be hard for you to avoid gossip? Why/Why not?

Some specific discussion points

Discussion of any literary works, historical figures, or current events featuring prominent individuals offers an opportunity to discuss how gossiping impacts different people/characters? For example, what are the traits of characters who gossip the most vs the traits of characters who gossip the least?

Questions may include:

  • When you think of gossiping, which TV, movie or book character comes to mind first? Why them?
  • How has being a gossip impacted this person in their life?
  • In general, does this character have good or bad character traits? What are they?
  • Can you think of a TV, movie or book character who doesn't gossip? Who?
  • Does this character have good relationships with other people? Why/Why not?
  • In general, does this character have good or bad character traits? What are they?

Discussing the quote from this episode:

"He gossips habitually; he lacks the common wisdom to keep still that deadly enemy of man, his own tongue" — Mark Twain

Possible areas of discussion may include:

  • Why do you think Mark Twain refers to your tongue as a 'deadly enemy of man'
  • Do you think not gossiping is 'common wisdom'? Why/Why not?
  • If not gossiping is common wisdom, why do you think so many people gossip?
  • What does Twain mean by 'He gossips habitually'?
  • What benefits do you think you will receive by not gossiping? 

Further information on this topic

If you'd like to dive a bit deeper on this topic, you might be interested in watching:

 

Jeff Conway – Redirecting Gossip