One of the most venomous, hurtful, and dangerous activities you can engage in is also one of the most common. It's called… gossip. Let's say you share a juicy morsel about someone. Would you be ashamed to say it in their presence? If so, you've stooped to gossip. Gossip is verbal poison. Gossip seeks to defame and discredit others.
When you gossip, you take on the negative characteristics of the gossip you're spreading. Nothing destroys trust and relationships faster than gossip.
“A troublemaker plants seeds of strife; and a gossip separates the best of friends.” — King Solomon
Recently I was talking with a friend. The topic turned to a mutual acquaintance and some business challenges he was facing. We each shared what we knew of the situation. Our conversation was all dressed up with sweet phrases. We said things like, “You know I love the guy, but…,” and, “I'm just concerned about him, that's all.” Afterward, I felt uneasy about the conversation.
Later I had to call my friend and confess that I felt guilty about our conversation. It felt like gossip to me. He told me he'd been feeling the same way. We repented, and promised to keep one another accountable. We agreed not to let gossip creep into our conversations again.
Gossip does not limit itself to the nosy neighbor, or the busybody relative. Gossip is a devious problem that finds its way into business as well. I think gossip is more insidious than most people realize. Gossip destroys relationships. And what's true in personal relationships is true in business relationships as well.
Gossip is bad for business. In fact, here are 5 good reasons you must not engage in gossip.
- Gossip Destroys Your Trustworthiness
People do business with people they know, like and trust. If you gossip, people assume you talk about them too when they're not around. So they don't trust you. Gossip drags a relationship through the mud, soiling it and debasing it. Gossip destroys trust and kills relationships.
- Gossip Ruins Reputations
You may think your “juicy tidbits” are harmless. But remember you are planting seeds of opinion about someone in another's heart. Those seeds take root in a subtle and powerful way. Their roots spread out to others. Before you know it, these weeds of gossip choke out all that is good, ruining reputations.
- Gossip Makes You Look Worse
The person you're speaking with may seem delighted to hear the “news.” But you can be certain their opinion of you is diminished. They're thinking, “If this is how he talks about his friends, then I don't want to associate with him.” The nature of gossip means that you're breaking confidences. That, or you're spreading lies. Either way, it tarnishes your character.
- Gossip can Get You Into Legal Trouble
Your gossip may find its way to the wrong ears (it always does). When this happens, it can damage your career and business relationships. And it's not uncommon to be sued for slander. You can never retrieve a careless word spoken. “What goes around, comes around.” And, “We reap what we sow.”
- The Bible Teaches Against It
Now you may think, “Okay, here we go, the Bible is such a killjoy!” But God, in His wisdom, gave us these instructions for our own good and protection. He knows how destructive and damaging gossip is. He urges us, “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up.” — Ephesians 4:29
And, “Be ready to do whatever is good, to slander no one, to be peaceable and considerate, and always to be gentle toward everyone.” — Titus 3:2 Now that's the kind of behavior that builds trust and cultivates relationships!
Remember those ads with Smokey the Bear that said, “Only you can prevent forest fires?” It's the same with gossip. Only you and I can prevent it. Only we can stop it spreading.
Let's agree to a pact. If what we're saying isn't building people up, let's recognize it's tearing them down. Let's agree not to do that. Instead, let's treat each other with respect and dignity. Let's pull the weeds of gossip out of our lives and sow seeds of kindness and grace instead. This is good for us, our relationships, and our business.
Have you ever been damaged by gossip, either as the gossiper or as the victim? What happened?