Secret # 1: Confidentiality, or Why Paying Attention to Gossip Matters

| October 4, 2011 | 0 Comments


Sabine Starr

Last month I introduced a series of 10 stunningly simple secrets that can make a big difference in daily life. This month I talk about the first secret: Confidentiality. While the term is most often used by professionals like health practitioners or psychologists, it is worth looking at it for our own use in daily life. We might not quickly recognize it at first, but we will come across it sooner or later, namely as gossip. Almost everyone of us has been exposed to it, whether hearing it, or thoughtlessly passing it on. Gossip comes with an often not considered high price. It is very seductive, socially even encouraged: a pastime almost, it comes easy and has a wow-factor.

There is a big downside, however. Gossip does nothing that could not be accomplished in a more respectful way. Its excitement wears off quickly and leaves us drained. There is also a more lasting and damaging effect: Gossip is not really about the person who is the subject of it. It is all about the person saying it and passing it on. The way we talk about people who are not present is truly revealing our own character. Like with every conversation, there is a sender and a receiver. Science has shown that the sender has no power over how and what the receiver actually receives. When “sending” gossip, the receiver learns about the sender, and about how she might be portrayed by the person speaking, once not present. This basic model of conversation is in place automatically and it hardly ever becomes conscious. The bottom line is that we can start to observe our own habit of talking about people not present. Raising awareness is the first step and also the opportunity to do things differently. Ask yourself, if something is worth passing on and what it will get you other than a short lived thrill in the moment. Forgoing the seduction of gossip and focusing on the person who is actually present is often a much welcomed change and a high quality way to spend the time with someone. The way we talk about people not present is mostly a habit, but it is well worth it to reconsider and choose consciously a way of dealing with it.

Here are some things to consider and try out:
1. When being exposed to gossip, listen to the person speaking and acknowledge what you see. For example, if you see that she is annoyed with someone, say “I hear that this was frustrating for you,” rather than adding a story of your own frustration with that person. This technique will raise the energy and help you and the person speaking. Then you can move on to a more pleasant topic. You both will leave happy and fulfilled rather than weighed down.

2. When feeling the urge to pass on gossip, pause for a moment and think of a kind and respectful way to talk about the person not present. What is it that you want to tell? How does it serve you and your conversation partner? The pause keeps you from simply
reacting and allows you to consciously act. Rejoice every time you catch yourself and become aware of it. Talk about people like you would want to be talked about.

I invite you to try it on for this month and see what happens. Decide for yourself, how and if it serves you in your life. I hope you have fun and enjoy the process. If you want to hear more about this secret, listen to our archived radio show with the title, “10 Secrets to a Smooth Ride on the Roller Coaster of Life” at

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