It is said there are two sides to every story. This of course is rubbish. There are three sides. There is side A, side B and The Truth. As humans we all tend to love a bit of gossip. I say humans, not women, because I would like to draw attention to the fact that even though most people perceive gossip as a stereotypically female trait, I know many men who are seasoned gossips who often don’t let the truth get in the way of a good story! The who said what to whom and when is the basis of daily life, but usually we only hear one side of the story. One person’s truth. We take that as gospel and rush to re-tell the story to eager ears. The story grows wings through more gossip and if the storyteller, be it the first or 31st person to regale the story, embellishes a little bit, the story takes on a life of its own, the truth left far far behind in a stream of Chinese whispers. I’m no angel. Of course I have done the “oh my god you’ll never guess what I heard” thing. After a good night out it’s great to have a post(party)mortem and, shamefully, the more salacious the gossip the better. I also know that I have been the subject of gossip. We all have. And honestly, if we can’t take it we shouldn’t dish it. But gossip is powerful, potentially hurtful and damaging, and we need to be careful what we share with whom. Maybe we should keep some stuff to ourselves. And if we can’t, we need to be careful who we share it with and make sure what we share is as close to the truth, as we know it, as possible.
The power of gossip is particularly poignant now I am in the process of meeting new people. Recently I have had to listen to stories that I’m pretty sure have been served with a large pinch of salt on the side. Some of these stories are about people I have known for years so I can make my own judgment and take as much of that salt as I need, but when I’m hearing things about new friends it’s of huge importance that I don’t allow the perceptions of others to tinge my own opinions. I try to push anything I’ve heard aside and welcome potential new friendships without prejudice. In an ideal world maybe it would be great to ask a new friend if what I’ve heard is true, but it’s not usually good form to dive in with such a blunt approach after the initial introduction.
“Hi, it’s good to meet you at last, I’ve heard so much about you”
“All good I hope?! Hahaha!”
“Actually, I heard you did this..and this…and this!”
“I’m sorry, but who exactly was it who has been gossiping about me??”
Cue awkwardness all around and possibly a spoiled evening of major fallout. Bang goes the new friendship – the messenger always gets shot!!
Truths, half truths and untruths circulate around us constantly. Most stories remain little pockets of inconsequential wind but some grow into typhoons with the damage palpable. Finding out things have been said about us or our loved ones, rumours spread about us or our loved ones that are not the truth, not our truths anyway, is horrible. And we have to find a way to deal with this. Depending on the magnitude or ‘minitude’ of the gossip we may decide shrug it off, we may quietly stamp our feet and shed tears of frustration and disappointment as we realise our truth has been twisted by careless hearsay or we may risk the fallout and challenge those around us who are circulating these untrue stories. Personally, although I have done some foot stamping and tear shedding, I have decided to trust that those who have shared my history and really mean anything to me, or I to them, will not feed off any gossip but will ask me to my face and get my truth.
It may be inconceivably hard to never see, hear or speak juicy tidbits, but let’s try to remember there are people with feelings behind every story and their truth may be very different to what you’ve heard.