Gossip – defined as malicious, harmful or damaging talk against another person – is wrong, no matter how you look at it.

Spreading malicious rumors not only hurts the subject of the gossip, it makes the gossiper look bad, and it makes the person or people you’re talking to uncomfortable … or at least it should.

Some people thrive on gossip. These are not my kind of people. Especially after being the subject of a malicious gossip campaign not that long ago by a former “friend” whose sole goal was to cause drama and destroy my life.

Like the days of our youth, women who feel wronged or threatened by another woman do exactly what they did as girls: they vent their frustrations to others. We crave validation. We need a team. We recruit cheerleaders. We don’t want to hate alone.

We’ve all gotten caught up in gossip at one time or another, and I know I’m not proud of it. Gossip can be a habit, a way to connect with others or a way to establish power over someone. Whatever the underlying cause of it, it’s so important to eliminate it from your life. To shift your behavior, you can change the topic and let others know that you are not interest in gossiping about someone else. Here are some techniques of what to say to get yourself out of gossiping.

  • “I don’t think that’s any of my business.”
  • “I don’t feel comfortable discussing that.”
  • “It’s not my place to discuss someone else’s life.”
  • “There are three sides to every story.”
  • “I don’t want to contribute to or anything negative about the situation/person.”
  • “Let’s talk about something else rather than talk about other people.”
  • “I would be so upset if someone said that about me – wouldn’t you?”

Trying to use these phrases to diffuse a situation where gossip is about to be spread is a great way to stop the spread of gossip. At least the person who is up to no good knows that you will not be part of it – boundaries are so important here.

Break the gossip chain – don’t be a mean girl or guy. And cut off relationships with friends who seem to thrive on causing drama and spreading gossip. I’m in my 40s and I still find these women lurking in my life – they do nothing but cause problems whether you have them in your professional or personal life.

The women who have hurt me the most were people I considered close friends but instead turned out to be my worst enemies. This one “friend” – let’s call her Donatella – critiqued every part of my life when she had no right to do so. And she based our opinions of me on hearsay, not facts. She exaggerated things, fabricated damaging lies and did things to help end relationships all while pretending to be my friend.

I wish I had trusted my instincts about her – instead I wound up losing a lot due to her behind-the-scenes scheming, gaslighting and triangulation. She taught me what I never want to be in a friend – and every single day I work to be a better person. I have an amazing group of friends who I treasure, and the silver lining for me was that I shed all of the peripheral friends who didn’t have my best intentions at heart, whether they were jealous of me, didn’t really like me or were insecure about themselves.

Unfortunately we never really get rid of mean girls even as we age – all I can say is that we can learn from them and be better friends, sisters, daughters and mothers – and break this toxic and damaging behavior.