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Dublin: 13 °C Monday 20 October, 2014

Column: Gossiping isn’t harmless fun – the damage it causes can be irreversible

Even if you pride yourself on your principles, you may well have been an unsuspecting participant in gossip by repeating other people’s options as fact. It’s hard to overstate how damaging rumours can be, writes counsellor Tony Moore.

Tony Moore

GOSSIP HAS BECOME big business and a part of our everyday lives. Large elements of the popular press make their money from speculating on the latest celebrity tattle, reporting on the most recent shocking indiscretion by the newest ‘here today, forgotten tomorrow’ reality TV star and the ‘who’s dating who’ merry-go-round that seems to be par for the course for the z-list celebrity set. They’re almost always provided by anonymous ‘sources’ who ‘leak’ the story to Fleet Street’s finest.

Men may point and say that women are guilty of such pleasures, but then again many men just skip to the back pages of the tabloids to see what their favourite sports star is getting up to. Are they joining a new team? Are they in trouble for their latest possibly embarrassing incident on or off the field?

Plenty of them dine on the idle speculation which can be enjoyed on the morning commutes to work. Should a newspaper be a bit ‘low tech’ these days then the Twitter feeds of many media organs and self-appointed experts supposedly ‘in the know’ are on hand to bring you the latest ‘hot goss’.

Ethical standards

On the other hand we pride ourselves on our moral and ethical standards. We have legislation to cover just about every section in society to ensure they are not offended or marginalised by our conscious or subconscious actions or words.

We pat ourselves on the back and give each other awards and proudly proclaim that we are non-judgemental. We have all been guilty of lying at some point in our lives. There are precious few people in this world of ours that transcend continents and truly deserve the accolade of being a genuine non-judgemental human being. The Dalai Lama is one such person. Why are we attracted to this man? The same could be said of Nelson Mandela.

I think it is because we recognise at some deep level here is someone who wouldn’t ask us questions about ourselves; they would just welcome us with genuine warmth. They would not spread the poison of gossip. They are not in the business of making fellow human beings cry into their pillows.

The pain gossip can cause

As a counsellor I witness the pain that gossip brings. I’m sure every one of us has spread gossip or has by our silence condoned such behaviour. I always smile at the way politicians and their advisors describe gossip. They call it ‘briefing against someone’ or they describe someone as being a master at ‘the dark arts’, showing deft skill in deflecting away from the real issue.

We may take a sharp intake of breath and recoil in horror and say that we are never guilty of gossip. We live by higher standards.

Please check your Facebook or Twitter accounts again. Please look at the texts you have received and sent. You could have been an unsuspecting participant, repeating other people’s gossip as fact.

It can cause harm to the innocent

Gossip is nothing new but that doesn’t mean we can’t do anything about it. We can and we must look to prevent ourselves from engaging in gossip. Innocent people and their families are suffering because of what we have done.

I know this to be true because I see it every day when people come along to unburden themselves of the pain others have caused. At this point I discard the psychological theories and think, ‘how would the Dalai Lama respond to this person’? With genuine non-judgement and sincere compassion for an innocent person who has been made to cry in their pillow.

Tony Moore is a counsellor for Relationships Ireland. Relationships Ireland provides affordable confidential counselling and support services that offer you the opportunity to understand and resolve difficulties in your relationship. For more information or to book a consultation you can contact 1890 380 380 or email: info@relationshipsireland.com.

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