Talking about people, not to people, is not new. Whether you call it triangulation, venting or ‘processing’ can also be called gossip. Gossip is costly for organisations and for relationships – with others and ourselves. It increases anxiety and stress and it often doesn’t move things forward.
Gossip is when we are not really interested in the self-reflection component of talking about someone else or prepared to talk it through with the other person either. The content can be damaging for their reputation and they do not have a chance to defend or discuss. We do it for a variety of reasons;
- We want to process what has happened with someone
- We are annoyed, pee’ed off, angry or hurt and want to verbalise how we feel
- We feel hurt and want others to know what this person did or said
- At its worst (which we rarely admit), consciously or not, we want to tarnish their reputation because of the hurt or pain they have caused
There are two main reasons why we can easily get trapped in the gossip wheel. Blame and denial. Both are easy to spot in others and can be common blind spots for ourselves.
Blame is when we don’t see the role we play in talking about someone else but can see and feel the pain the experienced has caused – to us or others. We point the finger at the role the other has played and we stay there.
Denial is abdicating any responsibility. We just can’t see that we have done anything to contribute. It’s a defence mechanism as we don’t want to see ourselves the way others do. It’s just too painful.
So instead of doing healthy reflection about the other person and how they trigger you or triggered another, we stay trapped in blame or denial and we vent about them. I love Cy Wakeman’s take on venting;
‘Venting is the ego’s way of avoiding self-reflection’. Ouch! And then we stay trapped in the drama. Whether we created it or not, it doesn’t matter. It might not be your fault but it is your responsibility to deal with people in a healthy way. We keep the drama alive with gossip.
So how do we start curbing these cultures in our teams or workplaces?
Teach them how to become more self-aware of the role they play.
Teach them how to talk to each other, not about each other.
Teach them how to build a healthy relationship with conflict.
Training them on policies and values doesn’t really help if you don’t give them to tools to self-reflect and solve. Sending an email around to remind them isn’t that useful either. No matter how many fancy fonts or colours we use. That’s as helpful as sending your partner an email about the marriage vows they made 😉
Ask me about our ‘Working as One’ program. How to create highly functional and performance teams and workplaces.