Your Female Friendships
How many times do you get together with friends and find yourself chatting about other people?? Perhaps you talk about how someone you both know is struggling, separated or their kid got into some trouble. They don’t always have to be glaringly obvious examples of gossip, but too often, that is what we bond over. I was recently struck by this when I was visiting with some old friends and they quickly launched into, “Did you hear about so-and-so?” and “Can you believe she did that?” I didn’t even know who they were talking about it. The conversation moved and flowed so quickly, almost like a dance. They were nearly finishing each other sentences! Gossip can easily become a cornerstone of a friendship. And, let’s face it… it can also be really fun! Gossip can even make you feel better about yourself.. knowing that someone else is in a world of hurt.
While I was marveling at the deft nature of this rather toxic conversation, this quote by motivational speaker, Jim Rohn, sprang to mind, “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” It’s taken me a very long time, but I am finally at a point in my life where I really want to do and be better. I no longer want to gossip or bring others down. I also don’t really want to spend time with women that gossip. But, I’m far from perfect. This is a process.
Why Do Women Gossip?
As women, we’ve been pitted against each other for… decades, if not centuries! I think that one of the reasons women are not ruling the world right now is because we often compete with other each, instead of lifting each other up. I think gossip feeds the competition. By tearing someone else down, you seemingly become better. It’s that feeling …oh, well, at least my situation isn’t as bad as hers.
Gossip is also an immediate bonding tool. Once you gossip, you and the person you are talking to, have a shared belief or story about someone else. The two of you are connected while the other person is an outsider. It’s dysfunctional and something that many of us have relied on for WAY too long…myself included! I have gossiped plenty over the years, and catch myself doing it… even now. I’m not proud of it, but I also am not going to spiral into shame. Rather, I am trying to take the necessary steps to change it.
Keep scrolling to find out the simple steps towards change…
How Can You Change?
The first step towards healthier, more energizing conversation is to be aware. Gossip can easily become habitual. Think back to my example where the two women effortlessly engaged in gossip. I equated their conversation to a dance. It was second nature and how they routinely interact. Once you become aware of gossip, you can give yourself pause when you start… and even change the direction of the conversation almost immediately. Awareness is definitely KEY!!
The second step you can take is to start being more protective over your time and energy…namely who you spend your time with. Remember back to the quote I shared in the beginning, “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” When you look around at your relationships, are you happy to be the average of those five people, or do you really need to make some changes? Maybe you need to set firmer boundaries. It could even mean energetically cutting some people out of your life.
The third step: stop gossiping. It sounds simple enough, but again in many cases it is such a habit, that you will likely still catch yourself engaging in gossip from time to time. I know I do. When you catch yourself or someone else you are with, gently change the subject or don’t add to the conversation. You can simply say, “Uh huh or okay,” and not add anything else. The conversation will stop naturally.
Everyone Around Me Gossips
You may be in a situation where most of the people in your circle gossip, and you don’t really want to cut everyone out of your life. So… what do you do??
I think it’s important to know that you don’t have to cut anyone out… or do anything drastic. These can be subtle shifts that are almost imperceptible to your friend group.
Once you are aware and have made the decision that you want to try and stop gossiping, commit to being more protective of your time. You control your schedule. If you know that a specific group or group setting will be rife with gossip, skip that event. Instead, maybe see your friends in smaller groups, in new settings or even 1-on-1 (my personal favorite). The last thing you want to do is embarrass or shame anyone. The goal here is to be and do better, not put yourself on a pedestal.
If the group setting or gossip is unavoidable, which will likely happen on occasion, just don’t add to it. This doesn’t mean you don’t have a voice or you have to be quiet. No. You are a powerful woman with an incredible voice; just don’t add anything to the story. Maybe you even change the subject.
Your small, but impactful decisions to disengage might even inspire your friends to be and do better too! Your decision to stop gossiping will likely have a ripple effect on those around you.
How To Connect
If you lose your typical connection crutch, what now? How do you bond and feel connected to other woman?? I believe you can lean on two things: shared experiences and vulnerability. Perhaps you try a class together that is way out of your comfort zones. For example, you could try a cooking or dance class. That shared experience will bring you closer together. You can also share a story about yourself or something you are struggling with. Being vulnerable is not easy, but it’s incredible and often worth it. Just make sure you are sharing your story with the right person. The same friends who gossip all the time while you’re around… are also the ones who will likely talk about you when you are not. Make sure you only share your vulnerabilities with people who are worthy of hearing them.
It’s worth saying again that all of your friends do not have to be local. I have a lot of friends I connect with online or via phone, that I only get to see once a year. But, that meeting feels so special and wonderful. I would rather have one or two deep, meaningful, reciprocal friends then a dozen friends I don’t feel truly connected to.
Try This Exercise
Take a look at the five people you spend the most time with. Remember, it doesn’t have to be in-person relationships. For example, I’m part of woman’s group online and spend a lot of time with them. I also have a new, sweet friend who I meet with a couple times per month via zoom. Take a look at your top five. Write down a quick description of each and then read them back. Would you be happy to be like them? Do they empower, inspire and energize you? Or do they gossip, criticize, take…and drag you down??
As I’ve gotten older, the one thing I know for certain is… time is VERY precious. I try to spend my time wisely and I’m so happy to be surrounded by strong women who love ‘deep talk‘ vs. small talk.
Have you experienced toxic female friendships? Or have you been the victim of hurtful gossip? Please share your experiences and the things you did that helped you in the comments below. Your story may be the one thing that someone else needs to hear.
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