The Herald Bulletin

July 8, 2013

Jesse Wilkerson: Beware of gossip


The Herald Bulletin

---- — “Rumor travels faster, but it don’t stay put as long as truth.”

— Will Rogers

People can say a lot of hurtful things. Human nature is to communicate. Sometimes communication goes awry when we use our words, thoughts, and actions to demean someone else. I haven’t met anyone who hasn’t had this life experience or witnessed it firsthand. A group of people gather to socialize or just for general conversation. The conversation starts out around topics of interest and then someone throws in names, places, events. Before you know it you’re talking about a co-worker, family member, associate in a way that is meant to spread gossip (fact or fiction).

Gossip is the idle chatter about typically private affairs of the lives others. Do you gossip? With whom? Why? If words could be seen floating around in the atmosphere I wonder what we would see in broad day light. The public chatter that goes on about reality television stars or back door conversation about a high school friend or college roommate would probably be enough to create dense clouds between us.

What gossip does is cloud our ability to see others in a most positive light. It changes our behavior and body chemistry in that we lose faith and ability to strongly believe in someone. I try to stay away from people who talk to me about others in a negative light. The reality is that if has or will say something about someone else to you they will likely say something to someone else about you. The problem may not be that what they are communicating is not accurate, but that what they are sharing is something they would not share directly with that individual if they were present with them.

Guard your tongue. I witness someone get hurt by gossip shared by someone close to this individual. In a way I became a middle ground. Both individuals tried to use me to sound off about the other until I called them both and gave them both the opportunity to get it out between them. This doesn’t always end well, but it eliminated the potential spread of malice. Good people make mistakes. They may say or do the wrong thing. The challenge is to never make the mistake and or to be able to correct a mistake after it is made.

I know something about someone, but I choose to keep what I know to myself. I could make myself look better by exposing what I know about someone else. What can you share about others that will provide them the opportunity needed to build a stronger identity? What wisdom do you have that will give them enough conviction to change and reverse the intent of gossip to drown them in their fault?

Jesse J. Wilkerson is the principal of the local architecture firm Jesse J. Wilkerson & Associates. His column appears every other Monday on the Business page.