How To Deal With Gossip a Friend Said About You

How To Deal With Gossip a Friend Said About You

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.

Do you have a question for Nina? Use our anonymous form. You can read Nina’s answers to past questions here.

Dear Nina,

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.

Good luck!


FULL RES - Badzin-03 copy-1You can follow Nina on her blog, on Facebook, and on Twitter.

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.

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  1. Justine says:

    Ugh, I feel you, Grapevine. Isn’t this the kind of drama that happened in high school? Exhausting. I seriously question when others tell me they’d go back to relive high school days again. Not me. I’m tired just thinking about it.
    The most recent example of grapevine comments in our household happened to my 8 year old. It was the day we got the semi-annual letter home saying that someone in her class had lice (it goes around a lot here, I blame the cold weather hats we’re always donning in Boston). To make my story less confusing, I’ll give the kids made-up names. A girl (Mary) told my daughter that another girl (Sue) said that if anyone had lice in their class, it must be my daughter. Sue is a girl we have known since preschool, though she’s never been close friends with my girl. For some time, I’ve been aware Sue has major issues going on at home, not the least of which is that her father passed away a few years ago, and her mother remarried recently. Sue also has trouble reading and goes to a remedial morning class, which could be embarrassing to her. Mary is a new girl in town. I’m providing this background not as an excuse; however, I point it out to bear in mind that as with these girls, we don’t know much about Megan and Lisa’s backstory. Here are a few things I told my daughter:
    1. While words can hurt, we don’t need to let them define us.
    2. Forgiveness carries power too, as long as you’re not being bullied.
    3. Drama, like anger, has often more to do with the person causing it than the recipient.
    4. Because she’s the new girl in town, Mary is probably trying to be friends with you, which is nice; however, we want to make friends through kindness, and what Mary said, even in a spirit of friendship, was not kind.
    At the end of the conversation, my daughter decided her plan is to stay away from both girls for a while. We high-fived, and that was that. Come to think of it, I wouldn’t mind being eight years old again. 😉

    Good luck, Grapevine!

  2. Sage advice as usual, Nina — and a good reminder that we DON’T want to know things said about us behind our backs. Love that you and your mom are on the same page. Sad that Grapevine had to deal with this situation. The older I get, the more I’ve come to realize that adults often act more like children than children, themselves, do. You have such a tempered way of looking at things.
    Melissa Crytzer fry recently posted…Desert DuelMy Profile

  3. I’ve dealt with these kind of situations so many times at work! And I always give the same advice – if someone says something negative to you about someone else, never ever tell that person! You and your Mom are right the one telling is usually worse than the one who made the mean comment. Great advice!

  4. Susan says:

    Hi Nina
    I generally agree with what you’ve said. I’d like to ask though why you’ve discouraged going up to ‘Lisa’. If the writer will see Lisa regularly the issue has got to be cleared up. I’m at the point in my life where I’ve realized I don’t have to take these ridiculous and insidious comments. This behavior is called (adult) bullying. If I heard from a third party what someone may have said about me I find it empowering to call them out on it. I’m tired and disgusted with people who simply behave badly without taking responsibility. If I was told directly I’d certainly have something to say.
    Susan recently posted…DIY: Perfectly FlawedMy Profile

    • Nina says:


      I respect that course of action, too! Grapevine didn’t really want to confront her, it seemed, or she would have just done so without wondering whether she should. They really are not good friends anymore and Grapevine doesn’t seem to want to be good friends with her in the future. It was for those reasons that a confrontation seemed out of place with Lisa, though I’m still more concerned about Megan’s motives and could see a discussion there in the future. Does it really matter what Lisa thinks of Grapevine’s husband or of her? We can’t change everyone’s opinions of us, nor do I think we ought to bother. I suppose it would be nice to know if Lisa actually said that before Grapevine assumes she did. But still . . . I just can’t imagine confronting everyone who said or might have said something about me or about my husband. Too exhausting! I’m so glad you commented here! There is nothing wrong with bringing the situation to Lisa if that’s what Grapevine wants to do and it’s important to hear other points of view here. I can only provide what I would likely do. Thank you!
      Nina recently posted…Layers of GossipMy Profile

      • Susan says:

        Thanks, Nina. I completely agree. My point in speaking directly to the offender would be my choice ONLY if I think I’d be crossing paths with her frequently where she may possibly make the atmosphere I’m in uncomfortable and unwelcoming. It is a case by case basis for sure!
        Susan recently posted…DIY: Perfectly FlawedMy Profile

    • Sometimes I feel the way you do, Susan. Most of the time, I think it’s best to take the high road but, you’re right, people do need to be accountable for their words. When I feel compelled to address something head on, I always do so by first giving them the benefit of the doubt, with the utmost humility, all in the name of “clearing the air.” Instead of saying “I heard about what you said and I take offense,” I might say “So there’s something that’s been bothering me and I’m hoping it’s nothing. Maybe I misheard or maybe it came out in a way you didn’t intend or maybe it didn’t even happen at all. And I just need to clear it up so I can sleep better.” Nine times out of ten, the person feels horrible and apologizes profusely and I say “Oh I’m so glad – I didn’t think it was like you and that’s why I wanted to ask.” They always thank me for saying something so it could be cleared up. And everyone goes back to being friends. That being said, this could go terribly awry especially if people are looking for some drama. I guess you have to anticipate the response of the other person and ask what the greater good is. And look to our first lady who said, “When they go low, we go high.”

  5. Caryn says:

    I agree with your advice Nina and would definitely question Megan’s decision to let Grapevine know. I had a similar situation recently happen at work. One colleague told me something another colleague said about me and I wanted to confront the other colleague (professionally of course and for professional reasons), but the person told me she didn’t want me to because she didn’t want to be seen as gossipping! Um….. then you shouldn’t be gossipping! And don’t get me wrong, I have shared gossip too, but it just has made it an awkward situation. All that to say, I completely agree and wish the letter writer good luck!
    Caryn recently posted…Back to Napa + Guest PostMy Profile

    • Nina says:

      Oh, nothing like the ol’ “but you can’t say anything” version of hearing what someone said about you. That is the worst of all scenarios and makes the person repeating the info even worse, I think. Don’t tell me something and then make a prisoner of the information. Frustrating!
      Nina recently posted…Layers of GossipMy Profile

  6. momof3misses says:

    I just had a similar conversation with my teenage daughter about why a “friend” would go up and tell her what another person said about her. Especially, when it is done in a negative aspect. I told her she should really be looking at the messenger in this situation. I asked her if someone told you something mean about another would you repeat it back to that person. Thankfully, she said no. At least I’ve raised her well on that point.

    • Nina says:

      Your daughter’s question was so pure and on point. Yes, why why why do people feel the need to deliver the “goods?” Teenagers are one thing, but adults–UGH. It’s important to get these lessons young if possible. I love the talk you had with your daughter.
      Nina recently posted…Layers of GossipMy Profile

  7. Sarah says:

    I honestly can’t tolerate hearing anything third-hand about anyone. Not just me. The comment is likely to be mixed up by the time it gets to you and, without the context, it’s even worse. That said, we don’t know how Megan told her. Lisa is someone this woman has to deal with on a regular basis. She already knew there was a problem and it was already awkward. I would want to know what she said about me so we could clear the air, for better or worse. I can’t stand speculating. I don’t like confrontation but I can’t deal with a situation like this where I’m guessing if or why someone is upset with me. Again, especially if it’s someone I see often.

  8. Kathy Sackheim says:

    I think what Grapevine should have said to Megan-the one who repeated the hateful gossip is, “Why are you telling me this? That might have stopped Megan in her tracks and might actually prevent her from repeating something hurtful in the future. As I said to you before, we don’t know that Lisa actually said anything in the first place. If Grapevine wasn’t there for the original exchange, she doesn’t know what was said or if the alleged conversation really happened.



  9. Tamara says:

    I definitely also wondered Megan’s motives. I know sometimes people can’t help themselves, and other times, there’s more at hand or at stake.
    I don’t think I would have confronted Lisa, but it might eat at me?
    Your advice is sound as always!

  10. Gail Freedman says:

    This is the age old error many folks might make when they haven’t mature. Lord knows I had many inappropriate triangulated relationships in my teens and early 20s like this. It only takes a few times for this sort of thing to bite you in the ass/loss of a friendship to learn how damaging this kind of thing can be.

  11. Amy says:

    Nina, funny I’ve been googling this question for two weeks ever since a similar occurrence, maybe I can exhale now. But, the whole thing honestly still bothers me. A “friend” told me, without me asking anything (had I asked, a different story, but why would I think to ask), some thing’s a couple people said about me (at a restaurant I used to work at for a very short interim career switch), not only after I left from what I thought was a short by sweet visit to have a drink and say hi to some familiar faces, but also WHILE I was there, one person I knew rather well was saying kind of horrifying things about me. As I honestly had sent a short message to her what a great nice time I had, she immediately dug into this negativity and my heart kind of sank and was almost just in shock as I kept saying, “they really said this?”, and she just kept at it going on and on.
    Since this was the second time this “friend” did this, the first was somewhat different but it still hurt me, I cut the ties and told her things like I was having to teach a five-year-old the how to use a fork, I can’t say I regret my over the top strong reaction or not, but it was my sincere reaction due to the nature of the things said and her knowing I’m going through a rough period from an emotionally abusive boyfriend, so it triggered me. But, whether I had reason to be triggered or not, agree 300%, “If you tell me anything negative said about me, I’m blaming you for letting them feel so comfortable saying it to”.

    • Amy says:

      ….as well it kept me in constant as another person said above, makes you question if it’s true or not, just a big mind game, I kept repeating I didn’t need to hear, and her answer…… “I thought you were strong enough to hear the truth instead of have a mental breakdown”.

  12. Pam says:

    As usual, I agree with you, Nina (and your mom)! That said, if I were in Grapevine’s shoes, I would feel SO awkward whenever I saw Lisa… then again the awkwardness would likely fade over time. I think if I still felt awkward or angry after a few months, I would probably be compelled to say something to her.
    Pam recently posted…#WorkoutWednesday: 30 Minute Strength WorkoutMy Profile

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