We all gossip a little now and then, repeating stories we’ve heard or updates on other people.
But there are certain subjects that need to stay off limits.
No matter how tantalizing they seem, the following subjects are not a good idea to chat about and will eventually cost you your reputation.
Here are topics to avoid, no matter how tempting it might be to talk about them.
1) Other people’s medical problems
The medical problems of other people should remain their own private business.
No matter what you’ve heard or what you want to know, it’s best to avoid any gossip about this subject.
Unless somebody confides in you or talks about their medical issues with you, consider them fully off-limits.
Even seemingly minor issues like somebody’s arthritic pain or the way they seem to have no energy lately can really strike a nerve.
Even if they never hear that you and others have been gossiping about them, this person may feel much more hurt than you realize.
2) Other people’s mental health struggles and issues
In addition to people’s physical issues and medical struggles, mental health problems should be fully off the table.
You may be genuinely worried about somebody and whether they are OK, but it’s best to bring it up with them directly.
If they won’t talk about it and you’re still worried, this can be a time to discuss it with close friends or family and possibly stage an intervention or wellness check.
But you should never gossip about someone’s mental health as a way to entertain yourself or pass the time.
Mental health is a deadly serious topic and it shouldn’t be joked about or made into a topic around the water cooler.
Plus it’s important to keep in mind that if you gossip about other people’s mental health and wellness it’s only a matter of time until the gossip about you starts, too.
3) Other people’s family and relationship problems
Many horrible and interesting issues come up in families and relationships and you may be tempted to gossip about them.
This is a temptation that should be resisted.
Family problems should remain the business of the family involved and any therapists they are seeing.
The same goes for relationships and the issues that come up within them.
People go through a lot in their personal lives and often those in relationships are those who start the gossip, seeking attention or pity.
But that doesn’t mean you need to feed into it or be part of it.
4) Other people’s religious or political beliefs
You may have juicy gossip about the “crazy” or “cool” or “interesting” religious or political beliefs of somebody.
But it’s best to keep your gossip on this to yourself.
Even an ideology many consider twisted such as Scientology has actually been given more credit and limelight because of the endless attacks on celebrities like Tom Cruise for their membership.
Gossip about people’s religious beliefs or their politics tends to backfire.
After all, who made you judge, jury, and executioner of what’s normal or strange about someone’s personal beliefs?
5) Other people’s career issues and controversies
Problems in career are a serious issue and they shouldn’t be something we gossip about.
This is especially true at work.
“Did you hear John’s getting fired?” is just about the worst start to a workplace conversation.
This climate of anxiety about gossiping about workplace issues that others are having is highly toxic.
Eventually, the topic will come around to you and people will talk about your career problems and insecurities behind your back.
It’s best to just leave these topics off the table.
6) Other people’s financial struggles and successes
Financial problems and issues are another topic that should never be gossiped about if you want to be respected.
Money is a very emotional and upsetting subject for some people, especially those going through a struggle.
When you gossip about other people who are doing well or struggling financially, you bring up an emotionally-charged topic that has no real upside.
If somebody is hurting you just made everyone else more worried about their own potential financial issues…
If somebody is doing very well financially you just helped create a general atmosphere of jealousy and insecurity.
Either way, other people’s finances should remain their own business.
7) Other people’s appearances and styles
Commenting and gossiping about the appearance and style choices of others is almost always a bad move.
The only exception is when you’re saying it to their face, and even then it’s better off if it’s a compliment.
People don’t love to be told their trashy sense is trash or that they look fat or ugly, after all!
But in terms of gossip, it’s also best to keep talk of the appearance of others and what they wear off the table.
It has no real upside, and it will lead people to perceive you as shallow and potentially even mean-spirited.
The truth about gossip…
Gossip is something people only have time for when they’re not invested enough in their own lives, loves, and businesses.
If you find that you’re around people who gossip a lot, try to find folks who are more focused on their own goals and lives than what other people are doing.
The truth about gossip is that it betrays a lot of insecurity.
If your life is interesting enough you won’t feel very interested in gossiping or chatting a lot about the lives of others.
How much gossip is too much gossip?
If you eliminate the categories of gossip above there’s not a whole lot left!
That’s because I honestly believe that most gossip is a waste of time at best and a risky, self-sabotaging venture at worst.
It’s understandable that you and others around you will gossip from time to time.
“Oh my God, did you see how he looked yesterday and what he was wearing? That divorce must be wrecking him!”
But to the best of your ability, try to avoid gossip and talking behind other people’s backs.
It’s not going to have any upside, and there are far too many downsides. It’s not just that you can lose a lot of respect from others, you can also lose your self-respect.