Is it ever okay to gossip?

I had an email this week from someone wanting to know the dos and don’ts of talking about people behind their backs. Obviously there are times when we speak of others to our friends, family and workmates. On many occasions, the talk will be positive and the subject of the discussion would be thrilled to overhear the conversation. But most of us are guilty of bringing up another person’s business, simply because it makes for interesting conversation. I remember losing a close friendship when he quite rightly took offense at me discussing a mutual friend’s  business. I have learned the hard way that gossip hurts.

So is it ever okay to gossip? Talking about someone behind their back is probably okay if:

  • You would say the same thing if the person was present
  • You have been asked to spread some news to spare the person from doing it themselves (in the case of a break-up, death in the family, redundancy, health diagnosis etc)
  • You are terribly concerned about a person’s welfare, and you want to check with mutual friends or family that your concern is warranted
  • You’re organising a surprise or a rescue package

It’s not okay to gossip if:

  • The person concerned would be mortified to know that they were being discussed in this way
  • You are breaking someone’s trust
  • You are being unprofessional


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