You’d like to fit in, but how do you draw the line between being a good friend and remaining detached from the gossip? Maybe some tiny part of you wants to know how so-and-so slept with the married guy, or chime in that you can’t believe he’s dating her, or that some coworker did some questionably ethical things but shhh don’t tell anyone.
It’s hard not to get drawn into the judgment game, especially when it seems that every time coworkers go out for happy hour, the conversation falls to the same ol’ roast.
Here are three tips to help stand your ground but remain a good friend:
You can’t always control the actions of other people. But you can control your own. If you’re standing in a group, and everyone else is throwing slanderous barbs at a fellow coworker, you could speak up and politely switch the conversation: “Hey guys, I’m not sure if this is true, and I’d prefer to hear it from so-and-so herself. And she’s clearly not here, so let’s chat about something else.” And suggest a new course of chitchat.
If that’s not your style, then you can simply smile, excuse yourself and walk away to join a less malicious conversation. If you’re busy working at your desk, plug in some earphones and listen to that new Beyoncé album.
Assumptions about other people often get warped into seriously unfair interpretations: “Did you see how he…? That must mean…” Don’t assume. Don’t interpret. Take people’s words and actions at face value. It’s probably a good rule of thumb to give people the benefit of the doubt in most cases. Try to be more generous: overlook the irritating, but overall harmless, character traits of people. If that girl at work constantly asks you questions and doesn’t seem to get it the first time around, don’t spread rumors that she’s slow. Accept that everyone, even you, has odd quirks.
Sometimes, depending on the situation, you can try to get to know the source of gossip. Invite the gossiper out to lunch and — if you’re up for it — pay for the bill. Have a genuine getting-to-know-you conversation. (Of course, no gossip allowed.) Feel free to share things about yourself, but understand that whatever you share, could possibly be broadcasted or live-tweeted to the rest of the world. So don’t say anything too private off the bat. Extending kindness early on sends signals that you’re a trustworthy person of integrity to everyone, including the mean ones. You may discover that they’re just as insecure as everyone else.