Ask the Coach — Week 24

Date posted: December 14, 2011

 

[dc]T[/dc]his is the column where I answer a website visitor’s question in hopes of supporting all visitors through shared (and likely, relevant) challenges, triumphs, and struggles. To submit your question, see the guidelines at the bottom of this page.

Dear Kerri,

Why do I keep attracting new friends that prove to be untrustworthy?  Everything seems great, and then one day, they open up to me and start  gossiping about all of their friends, and most of what they are saying isn’t very nice.  I don’t know how to continue being friends with someone who does that because I worry what they may be saying about me, so I end up pulling away.

Signed,
Confused in New Hampshirecoaching column

Dear Confused,

It’s hard when you and your friends find yourselves on different points of the spiritual path, but it’s so important for you to honor your own journey. And what’s really cool about doing so is that you end up honoring your friend’s journey, too!

The first thing I’d encourage you to do is evaluate the importance of the relationship between yourself and the gossiping friend. Is this a friendship that you’d really like to salvage, or is their latest behavior a last straw in realizing it’s time to move on?

If it’s a relationship you’d like to keep, consider letting your friend know how you feel about her gossiping. This is not to say you’ll be berating her or ridiculing her. Instead, you’ll let her know you’re simply not interested in being a part of it. You can simply say something like, “Hey, Julie, I really enjoy the time we spend together, and because I care about our relationship, I want to be honest with you. I feel uncomfortable when you talk about other people with me. While I understand everyone needs a sounding board, when the conversation turns to gossip, I’d rather not be a part of it. I hope you understand.”

That step can feel pretty scary to a lot of people, so if that feels like too much of a jump, you can start by, first, making sure you’re not engaging in the gossip when your friend goes there. It can be so easy to get sucked into the drama and before we know it, we’ve jumped on the gossiping train with them. The next thing you can do is simply change the subject when she starts; even a little boundary, said in a playful way, like, “Let’s not spend our time together talking about that!”

If the gossiping continues, and this remains a friendship you’d like to keep, you’ll need to go to that more direct boundary conversation I first mentioned.

When we set these limits with the people in our lives, we pave the way for more authentic connections, deeper relationships, and we keep our integrity in tact. The other bonus result is that we play an integral part in helping our friend along their journey as well. Even if he or she chooses to still be a gossip, by you not engaging in the behavior forces a change — that may mean losing you as a friend, prompting them to think before they speak, learning to consider and respect others’ boundaries, etc. Whatever it is, by not tolerating something that goes against your values, all parties, whether everyone knows it or not, take a step in the right direction.

Stand your ground,
Kerri

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