Gossip can seem like fun until you are its target. There's something enjoyable about talking about other people among your friends, but when you are the one being talked about, it's not easy.
When You're the Target of Gossip
It happens to everyone at one time or another. You walk into a room or up to a table at lunch where everyone had been talking and laughing, and suddenly there's silence. Or maybe people who are normally nice to you suddenly start giving you funny looks and don't want to talk to you.
Odds are when this happens you've become the target of gossip. Someone started a rumor about you that's being passed around the school. It's probably something silly, unbelievable and untrue, but that doesn't mean it won't change people's opinions of you. Sometimes it is true, and that can hurt even more because you probably shared a secret with a friend and suddenly it was all over school.
Why People Gossip
A lot of gossip has to do with relationships. Someone might start a rumor that you're secretly dating someone no one likes, or that you're having sex with a bunch of different people. Other popular rumors have to do with the object of the gossip being poor, overweight, unattractive, bad at sports, having trouble at school, or getting in trouble with the law.
Other teens, in particular girls, tend to focus on the one thing in your life you're most insecure about and develop the perfect little lie to make you feel horrible when you hear about it. That's often the point of gossip: to hurt another person's feelings.
Dealing with Rumors about You
It's easy to say that you shouldn't let it bother you when you know people are talking about you behind your back, but it's a much more difficult thing to actually do that. It is best, however, if you'd don't try to confront the person you think started the rumor or try to disprove whatever the accusation was. These tactics will probably just make the situation worse.
If the rumor is so bad you feel the need to defend yourself, try to make a joke out of it. If someone asks you if it is true, laugh it off and say, "Can you believe (whoever started the rumor) would say such a thing?"
You can even try spreading the rumor around yourself by saying, "Have you heard what (that person) is saying about me? Isn't that crazy?"
If you can be cool in the face of gossip and not freak out when you hear a story that's being spread about it, its likely people will stop making up rumors about you. The reaction is the main reason people spread rumors, and having a fit just makes it look like the rumor is true. So stay calm, and the rumor will die down quickly.
When Your Friends Spread Rumors
It's pretty common when friends get together that someone will start gossiping about someone who isn't there. The rumor might be about a friend or about someone you aren't close to.
Especially if you have been the victim of rumors, you should be sensitive to the feelings of other people when it comes to such stories. Gossip that stays among friends may seem harmless, but people are notoriously bad at keeping secrets. Odds are what you were saying will get back to the person you were talking about faster than you would believe possible.
Part of growing up is learning empathy, an understanding of how your actions and words make other people feel. It's not easy to stand up to gossips in your social group, but you might be able to change the subject or make a joke about the person spreading the rumor to break the cycle.
When You Gossip About Others
If you're the one spreading rumors about other people, take some time to think about how your actions make those people feel. It can be funny to see how people react to the stories you tell about them, but laughter at the expense of another person isn't right.
Try to keep yourself from starting rumors or talking about other people by taking a minute to think about how you would feel if someone said the same thing about you. If it's something that would hurt your feelings, odds are it would hurt the other person's feelings as well.
Consider what others will think about you when you start a rumor. It's usually pretty common knowledge who the source of a story was. People might say they think you're funny, but they are probably really wondering why you feel the need to be mean to other people. Do you really want to be known as a gossip? Someone who can't be trusted? If not, you might want to change your actions.
Gossiping is a problem for teens and adults alike, and it takes a lot of effort to keep yourself from gossiping or to get people around you to stop. It's a worthwhile effort, though, sparing a lot of people bad feelings.
Refuse to Participate
Spreading rumors and gossiping about others may seem like harmless fun. In reality, gossip can hurt feelings, and it may negatively affect someone's life. If you participate, it makes you look as if you can't be trusted. You can rise above gossip, however, by refusing to participate. If you don't listen to or spread rumors about others, then people will come to see you as a trusted friend and confidant.