It is no secret that humans have an innate need for love, belonging, and relationships. The extent to which individuals are successful in developing these things however varies depending on a host of factors (e.g., social involvement, personality, etc.). One of the most prominent factors that serves as a vessel for fostering and also deterring interpersonal relationships is gossiping, also known as spilling tea. Research indicates that between 65 to 80 percent of conversations are gossip.
Unbeknownst to most, gossip has lasting impacts on both the victims of gossip and those engaging in it. Those who are the subject of gossip are particularly more likely to have poor work/school performance, low self-esteem, and a greater risk for experiencing suicidal ideations, engaging in disorder eating behaviors, and developing depression and anxiety. Similarly, those who gossip (also known as tea spillers) and those who listen to gossip (otherwise none as tea sippers), are more likely to engage in negative-self-talk (e.g., “I am ugly”, “I am worthless”, etc.), have strained interpersonal relationships (e.g., experience conflict within relationships), and report lower levels of self-confidence and self-esteem.
So, what does this mean for our everyday interactions? Although spilling and sipping tea can be enticing and a mechanism to generate conversation, they have harmful consequences that should be considered. Refraining from gossip can improve your emotional well-being and hence aid in the pursuit of your goals. Choosing to abstain from gossip can be difficult to uphold however, considering how easy it is to get caught in it. To help make the transition, rely on your skills! Listed below are a few skills that might be helpful.
Mindfulness is a core component of DBT and is applicable to every aspect of daily living. Mindfulness involves increasing your present moment awareness through observing/ being cognizant of what you are experiencing within yourself and what is occurring within your environment. The information gathered from establishing a present moment focus can be extremely useful in stopping gossip. Through observation, you can develop an awareness of how gossip is showing up within your life (e.g., notice topics you commonly gossip about, individuals involved in gossip, internal cues you feel when gossiping, etc.). With this understanding, you can then better intervene when gossip arises and develop preventative measures to combat gossip (e.g., create a plan for how to address gossip when it arises).
Having a present moment awareness is especially useful when practicing the stop skill. Using the stop skill, you can prevent yourself from making ineffective decisions and behaviors. In the context of gossiping, you can use the stop skill to refrain from engaging in it and remove yourself from environments where it is occurring.
When you hear gossip or feel the urge to gossip, you should first stop and remember that you are in control of your emotions and behaviors. Then, take a step back from the situation by walking away or mentally building a wall between yourself and what is occuring. This will allow you time to disconnect from what is going on and calm down. (During this time, deep breathing can be beneficial in activating relaxation.) When calm, observe what is occurring inside of you and within your environment. Notice the physical sensations, thoughts, and emotions that arise for you. Also notice what others are doing and saying in your external world.
After gathering all of the facts of your reality, consider your goals, both short and long term. Keeping them in mind, decide what would be the most effective decision/behavior in the situation. This could be asserting that you do not want to be involved in gossip or removing yourself from gossip ridden conversations. Once you have decided what is best, proceed mindfully in living it out.
About the Author
Destyn Jones (she/her), M.A., is a fourth-year clinical psychology doctoral student at Xavier University who is pursuing her interest in practicing Dialectical Behavior Therapy at CCDBT. Destyn conceptualizes the therapeutic experience as a collaborative process, where authenticity, cultural humility, and understanding are needed to help individuals achieve their goals. Click here to learn more about Destyn and her therapeutic approach.
Edwards, V. V. (2021, October 25). Do you ever feel like people are gossiping behind your back?
Science of People. Retrieved April 20, 2023, from https://www.scienceofpeople.com/gossiping/#:~:text=Researchers%20estimate%20that%20anywhere%20from,in%20what%20we%20talk%20about.
Gordon, S. (2020, July 18). 6 reasons why kids spread rumors or gossip. Verywell Family. https://www.scienceofpeople.com/gossiping/#:~:text=Researchers%20estimate%20that%20anywhere%20from,in%20what%20we%20talk%20about.
Retrieved April 20, 2023, from https://www.verywellfamily.com/understanding-the-impact-of-rumors-and-gossip-460625
www.facebook.com/DBpsychology. (2021, August 26). Drop the gossip for better mental health.
Deborah Byrne Psychology Services. Retrieved April 20, 2023, from https://deborahbyrnepsychologyservices.com/drop-the-gossip-for-better-mental-health/#:~:text=These%20include%20a%20negative%20impact,is%20targeted%20that%20is%20affected.