In this month’s HerTake question, Nina discusses hearing third-hand what a friend said about you. Let us know what advice you have for this month’s letter writer and her struggle with how to deal with gossip.
I have a friend, “Lisa,” who I was very close to, but about a year ago we drifted due to her traveling and some comments she made regarding special needs kids (knowing I have one).
Last week I was having lunch with a mutual acquaintance from our book club, Megan, who told me that Lisa approached her while watching their daughters’ basketball practice. Lisa started asking Megan about another friend’s political affiliation and religious beliefs, and during the conversation Lisa referred to my husband as a traitor of Jews since he is a Republican. I am very hurt and dismayed by this and he is, too.
My daughter and Lisa’s daughter are friends, but they are too young to be friends without us arranging playdates. Others have told me not to confront Lisa. What is your advice for how to deal with gossip?
I Heard It Through The Grapevine
Dear I Heard It Through The Grapevine,
You asked whether you should confront Lisa. My short answer: no.
While it seems the “culprit” in your question is Lisa, I find more fault with Megan who had no business repeating Lisa’s words. What was Megan thinking?
Was Megan hoping to make you more upset with Lisa than you already were? Does she have a stake in you feeling closer to her than to Lisa? Does she not like that your husband is a Republican and this was her way of letting you know? I’m actually getting increasingly aggravated at Megan as I write this.
Don’t Repeat Gossip
I’m asking these questions not because I think you know the answer. Rather, I think it’s important to acknowledge that we rarely act with no intention whatsoever so it’s safe to assume that Megan had some purpose in mind when she repeated the conversation to you. Now to be fair, Megan’s intention was likely the most benign type. I bet she was simply trying to be a good friend. But I would hope most adults know that repeating what one person said about another is not being a good friend. It just isn’t.
Hey friends of mine who are reading this—listen up! I don’t want to know anything bad somebody said about me, especially if I don’t know the context and if it’s only going to make me feel awful about myself or about my friend.
I can hear some of your voices, dear readers. “But Nina, how can someone who said anything about you truly be your friend?”
Ladies, come on now. We all know darn well that we say things we regret when we are upset, jealous, trying to gain favor, or just having an overtired, overworked moment. We hopefully, with age and experience, get more dignified with our tempers, jealousy, and whatnot. But we have all been in Lisa’s shoes, have we not?
I Heard It Through The Grapevine: if you have never uttered a questionable statement about another person, then you can perhaps demand an explanation from Lisa. But if you have been in Lisa’s shoes, then I would let this one go. It sounds like you have already drifted from her so a confrontation at this point seems wholly unnecessary and more personal drama than it’s worth.
Sure, the idea that Lisa was asking, seemingly for the purpose of gossip, about another friend’s political and religious beliefs is egregious. And I will hardly address Lisa’s alleged point about Jewish Republicans being “traitors” except to comment that it was a chutzpadik thing to say if she indeed said it. Nobody—not even a group “insider”—gets to speak for that entire group. The end.
Confront the Gossiper?
Let’s get back to Megan. If you’re going to confront anyone, I’d go with Megan. It’s one thing to vent about a friend. Fine, most of us have been guilty of that. But to wedge yourself between two friends by repeating what one said about another is a worse crime in my opinion.
You can let Megan know that in the future you’d rather not know what anyone says about you. Despite the human nature in all of us that makes us think we want to know everything, I promise that this type of information never leads to any good. With that in mind, I’m not sure it was necessary to repeat the comment to your husband, but I get that you were upset about the situation and looking for support. Your husband was the obvious choice and it was better to vent to him than to further make both Lisa and Megan look bad in the eyes of your mutual friends. (Thereby doing more damage with gossip.)
Advice From Nina’s Mom About How To Deal With Gossip
For what it’s worth, I sent your question to my mom (who is the most skilled anti-gossip person I know), and I reviewed her answer before I wrote my own answer. It mirrors my sentiments, but it has the extra Kathy flair. I want to share it with you.
“Grapevine must ask herself why this Megan repeated the hurtful comment in the first place. What was her motive? Was she trying to stir up trouble? In other words if Grapevine didn’t actually hear Lisa’s comment, then she doesn’t know what was actually said, or if it was said at all. I have found that the person who repeats hurtful comments is worse than the person who allegedly made the statement. Since Grapevine was not part of the original conversation, then a confrontation is pointless.”
Readers, since my mom and I are on the same page, I’d love to hear from anyone who has different advice for Grapevine about how to deal with gossip. And if you want further (and more heated) conversation about friendship and politics please read my editor Jessica Smock’s piece written before the election.
Thanks for sharing your dilemma, Grapevine. I think it’s one many readers can relate to from your experience, Lisa’s, and Megan’s.
We’re always looking for new reader questions for Nina! If you have a difficult friendship situation that you’d like advice on, fill out our anonymous contact form.
**Read our powerful November Voices column, “The Healing Notes of Song” here.
**Have you grabbed your copy of So Glad They Told Me: Women Get Real About Motherhood yet? It’s now available on Amazon as a paperback or Kindle copy! (Makes a wonderful holiday gift for moms!)