It’s the most natural thing to talk about: the other people you work with. The problem is, such talk quickly veers into gossip, and you know how dangerous that can be to your career, your relationships with others, and even the mood of the entire office. So you know better. The problem is, how do you avoid getting involved in these conversations without creating the impression you think you’re better than everyone else? Dorianne St. Fleur, writing for The Muse, has some advice, four inoffensive ways you can get out of a gossipy corner.
Frustrations or issues you have with a someone can be shared with your non-office friends or a loved one, but only with a coworker you absolutely trust. Otherwise, you risk setting in motion a wave of trash talk that’s likely to splash back on you eventually. And if this happens, you won’t be able to avoid getting caught up in the undertow. After all, you (inadvertently) started it.
There are signals that someone’s about to open the gossip faucet. Phrases like “I shouldn’t say anything, but . . .” or the big one, “I’m going to tell you something, but you can’t tell anyone else.” In the first case, you can try stopping them by saying something like, “Well, don’t feel like you have to tell me. It’s OK. I’ll survive.” In the second case, you can remind the person just how bad you are at keeping secrets, and so they probably shouldn’t tell you.
When someone starts talking about a situation and you can tell it’s heading somewhere you don’t want to go, latch on to some innocuous aspect of what they’ve just said and make that the subject of what you say in response. It’s a good way to shift the conversation away from gossip without being overt about it. It may be that no one will even notice you’ve led everyone out of danger.
Sometimes you may not be able to avoid being gossiped to, with someone planting some really juicy information on you that you’re tempted to pass on to someone who’ll appreciate it. Don’t. When someone shares something that shouldn’t be repeated, just don’t repeat it. Be the last stop in its journey. No one will know you’re taking an anti-gossip stance — nor will they suspect the secrets you know — and you’ll have broken a vicious cycle. It’s the classy move.
If there’s a common theme to all of these ideas, it’s this: if you stay away from gossip in the first place, you’re less likely to find yourself in the awkward position of having to rise above it with everyone watching and feeling like they want to spread something juicy about you.