We Need To Talk About…The Importance of Who You Spend Your Time With

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.

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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…

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Interested in more of our We Need to Talk About Series? You can find additional thought-provoking topics here.

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24 thoughts on “We Need To Talk About…The Importance of Who You Spend Your Time With

  1. Dear Erin,

    I am a school teacher in CA, I am newly married (first time), and I just turned 40. I have a one hour commute going home, so I have been watching your fashion videos as I drive. It is so inspiring and makes me want to burn all my clothes and start over, lol.
    Something I struggle with m, that is similar to what you were talking about, is this thing with boundaries. Since turning 40, it’s like I no longer want people to control me, and I am being really militant about it. I was single for a long time, and a people-pleaser, and I would drop everything to help others. Now, I don’t do that, I have cut people out of life who were sucking me dry, and I find myself saying, “No!” a lot, even if it is a scream in my heart but a nice gentle answer from my mouth.

    I am struggling, though- am I a mean person? I do not serve and give like I used to. I feel like I am finding my boundaries and really enforcing them this season, especially guarding my time with my husband. What do say about “love” with it comes to boundaries? I grew up that love was bending over backwards for people, but I am tired of that. So tired. I feel tired of giving because I do that ALL day with my 150 music students. But when I do not give/serve, I feel guilty. I want to be strong, say no, and feel ok about it. What do you say? How do I have boundaries and not feel guilty? Thank you for your help. ~Beth

    1. It is definitely an adjustment that takes time and a total mindset shift. When you’ve been taught that love and kindness are only based on your actions and the energy spent on serving those around you, it takes a lot more energy to re-learn how to spend some time on YOU.

      I think you’re on the right track and I would never say you are a “mean” person. It’s so clear that you care about others, you care about the quality time you spend with your husband and your students. Finding the boundaries that work for you just takes time. And there’s no better time than right now, to work on this! ~Erin xo

  2. I’ve been hurt by friends before. I’m not totally innocent. I did gossip about 1 or 2 friends with another friend who I thought is the closest to me. Long story short, we had an argument and she immediately went and tell everything that we talked about to the mutual friends. Of course, she left out whatever that she said and only make me look bad. In short, all of us are no longer friends despite my attempt to rectify the situation by talking to them. Looking back, I am aware of what I was doing. None of the things that I talked about is untrue but it is also unnecessary and I shouldn’t have trusted anyone with such gossip. I know this friend is the type who will immediately back stab me if something happen but I chose to ignore the signs. I am making continuous effort not to gossip about people anymore. I choose to focus on me and my growth and be more empathetic and understanding towards my friends. I choose to be kind.

    1. Thank you for sharing your story, Kathy… it may help other people walking through the same situation. I’m so sorry to hear that things were unable to be mended, but good for you for trying. It sounds like it was also transformative for you, that’s wonderful! ~Erin xo

  3. I had a very close girlfriend that I’ve known since middle school and we lived on the same street too. We did everything together. When she got married we kind of lost touch she seemed to only want to be around married people and I was single so we drifted apart. Then one day we ran into each other so we made plans for dinner and drinks. It was so nice to see her and I thought maybe we could be close friends again but at dinner with her one night she was on her phone constantly so I simply told her she was being a bit rude well she didn’t like that at all and got mad at me for saying that to her. The night ended with it was nice to get together and we should do this again sometime, well I never heard from her again. One day a few months later I happen to see her on my fb page with a group of old girlfriends I used to know out celebrating her birthday I was really hurt that I wasn’t invited. Could that small fight over her using her phone too much at dinner that night really be the reason she didn’t want me at her birthday??? I couldn’t help but wonder so I texted her and asked was there a reason I wasn’t invited ? I would have loved to see you and all the girls well she never answered me she just flat out ghosted me. This was about 6 or 7 years ago and it still bothers me. I can’t seem to get past it we were best friends growing up and I was in her wedding and she ignores me like I was nothing in her life. I just don’t understand how a person could be hurtful like that.

    1. I’m so sorry you are struggling with this situation, Lisa… Life ebbs and flows. Some friends stay with us on our journey the entire way, while others are there only for a certain period of time. It sounds like you tried your best to keep the connection but we only have control over ourselves.

      Feeling grateful for the season of life that you two had together, and trying to forgive her for the painful end to your relationship might be a great next step. You don’t ever have to verbally say “I forgive you”, she never has to know, but it can be really important for you to do this to be able to release this energy. ~Erin xo

  4. I love this post. I choose not to be close friends with women who gossip. I learned a long time ago that if someone talks about others, you can be sure they will talk about you when you’re not present!

  5. I enjoy your blog and like that you are expanding it with other areas. I also like the phrase, “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” So true. I’ve moved several years ago and am meeting some really interesting, kind people that are adding to my life. So good. My focus is to be conscious of what I’m saying and with whom I am spending my time. It really is too valuable to waste. And my time alone is also valuable. I treasure that.

  6. Wow! Loved this Erin. I find this so true. I have been thinking this same thing for awhile. This even happens with my family. A situation in my life recently made me think about my boundaries, yes vs no, and friends/family. I realized my boundaries were to often leading me to say yes when I should have said no. I realized people I thought were friends were actually not. They were people who were not loving and supporting, but were rather looking to tear me down. I believe out of jealousy rather than being happy for something I was able to experience. I have realized I would rather be alone than around those “friends.” I am working on myself and you have motivated me to stop gossip in my life. While working on me, I have realized I can only change me. Who knew… (LOL). My motto for now is: “Love yourself enough to accept nothing less than what you deserve.” Thanks for sharing your thoughts on gossip and know I am in agreement and working to stop it in my life.

    1. Such a great point, we can only change ourselves. 🙂 I’m glad this one resonated with you. ~Erin xo

  7. Covid lockdowns and limitations shattered the relationships that I valued most with two of my girlfriends, one I considered my best friend since 1983 and the other since 2002. The former decided to while away the days amping up her drinking while the second refused to leave her home (or have anybody enter it) for fear of getting infected.

    When I would see the former — we’re so close we became neighbours — she’d crack open a bottle of wine or vodka and expect me to ignore that she was falling down drunk. I kid you not. I got to the point that I couldn’t continue to enable her behaviour — she felt I was OK to drink around because I loved and accepted her for 40 years — and she would abuse me if I asked her to cut back. It’s a lot more complex than what I am typing here but, bottom line, I had to let her go. She screams at me now when we run into each other.

    As for the latter, she’d expect me to Facetime or talk on the phone for hours everyday. She’s want to watch TV shows “together.” I just couldn’t. I have projects, commitments, workouts, family and friends. She refused to venture out to sit on a patio and berated me for “risking” getting sick by mingling with people, even outdoors. She would lecture me on everything. I couldn’t take it anymore. I ghosted her. I feel terrible but I couldn’t deal with the drama anymore.

    A couple of other girlfriends also turned to booze during Covid. I know it was difficult for those of us who live alone and have no partner but I was single too. Instead of wallowing in self-pity, I got myself into shape, overhauled my closets, learned to shop online, and, ultimately, met a wonderful guy (the love of my life!) via Facebook.

    It’s hard to admit this because it sounds like I am being “superior” or something but maybe I am just more resilient. I honestly don’t know. But now I am seeking out new friendships and, while we don’t have the shared histories and experiences, I am finding myself feeling less weighed down.

    Selfish? Maybe. But life is short. I’m 71 and I refuse to be frustrated, feel put upon, or abused for the rest of my life.

    Thanks for the post!

    1. Antonia, I am SO sorry that you’ve dealt with these kinds of friendships. Covid did a number on all of us, but it sounds like you’ve persevered and come out a better person… and congrats on the new beau! Never feel like taking care of yourself and prioritizing your wants/needs is selfish! Thank you so much for sharing this with us. ~Team Busbee xo

  8. Hi Erin,
    I loved this! I don’t want to purposely hurt anyone. I agree, if you don’t add to the gossip the subject will change. I would rather be by myself than have lots of friends who are not true friends. Thanks Erin.

  9. I agree with Jim Rohn’s quote because your five closest friends determine where you will be in your monetary goals. I have been the brunt of gossip in my lifetime and I know how it feels. When I hear gossip I step away because for one, it does not denote good feelings, and two it goes against my conscience. If it does not feel good and promote good feelings it is just as damaging to me as it is to the one who the gossip is about. I choose friends who are into their goals in life and we support and help each other with our goals. It is a much better feeling to be able to discuss goals and topics that contribute to our growth. Gossip is not growth, it is destructive and hurtful. It is not a good feeling for LOA or Universal Laws that govern us whether anyone believes in them or not. We are to love one another in spite of our faults and help each other with our faults.

  10. Dear Erin,
    Thank you for the blessing of the beautiful person you are and for sharing what you have learned with me and other women so truthfully and genuinely! Your articles and videos are so helpful to me because there is much I was not taught growing up. I know God has sent your wisdom into my life at a time when I so desperately needed it. Please keep up your special work because you are definitely meant to be doing this! There is no more important use for your time in service to others.

    1. Thank you for sharing your kind words… I am truly humbled… I am SO happy to hear my content is resonating with you! You are priceless and SO worth it! I am glad I’ve been able to help in some small way. ~Erin xo

  11. My rule is: “Don’t say anything behind someone’s back that you wouldn’t say to their face.” It’s a great litmus test and eliminates a lot of gossip! I also like the three questions about gossip: 1. Is it true? 2. Is it kind? 3. Is it helpful? If not, silence is better. Lastly, I find that sometimes it is important to speak up if people are tearing someone down, because silence can be perceived as agreement. I’ll suggest we change the topic and if that doesn’t work, I’ll stand up and say, “I’m not comfortable with this conversation” and go into another room.

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