When I’m paying attention, or perhaps, when I’m over thinking just a little bit, little revelations come to me.
Yesterday I was put in a situation that bothered me. I wasn’t entirely sure why at first.
A colleague started a story with: “I don’t know if you really want to know, but did you hear about so and so’s experience with so and so?”
I should have said: “No, but that’s alright.” She gave me the opening. Just opening like that, I think she’s noticed that I tend to deflect negative talk. This time, I didn’t. Because there’s still a part of me that wants to go along with the flow. That has been trained to tolerate gossip because it’s ‘just venting.’ That wants to just be one of the cool kids.
So the story was basically how one person walked in on another in the bathroom. There was implied body shaming and disgust aimed at the less-well liked person.
I laughed it off because I was supposed to. I gave the expected: “Really? Why were they doing that?” Though know why and how the situation likely unfolded.
The less liked person in this story can be rather negative, blunt, and can be kind of, lets say, inappropriate. I’ve spent quite a bit of time with this person and for the most part, can tolerate these things others are so bothered by.
I treat this person with respect, and as an equal, and they have never done anything that made me uncomfortable. They’ve said things that I realized later were inappropriate, but not enough for me to really be bothered.
But part the reason I don’t mind, is that this person has a unique experience and perspective. I love to get them talking, when I have the time. I love to hear all the stories. Being a writer, I eat that kind of thing up. I want to know how this person grew up, why they are the way they are.
When I spend time with them, I get them talking. There have been times when I’ve worried I let them get too comfortable, so I step back to re-establish boundaries. But for the most part, I just like being friendly with this person because they’re not inherently bad, vindictive or mean. Just cranky. For a number of reasons.
And I can’t help but think that they know they are not well liked. I have a feeling this only makes their attitude worse. They get crankier and resentful. Even when people are not rude, most of us can tell if the interactions are not genuinely kind.
And this is where I take responsibility for contributing to this issue. While I can spend time with this person and they doesn’t bother me, I didn’t stand up for them. I didn’t defend them. I didn’t shut down the story before it started.
I’ve gotten pretty good at shutting down this kind of thing in as non-abrasive of a manner as I know how. It’s especially helpful since I’m not emotionally invested in securing my place in this social group. I care, but I don’t care enough to get caught up in the gossipy aspect of it.
When I have my head on straight, I will take the story or complaint and spin into something like: “but he does such and such really well,” or “Well, she I think some things are hard for her, I can understand how that might bother her,” or “Well, I think he’s really entertaining, have you ever talked to him about such and such?”
But this time, I opened the door for the story. I fell into the trap of wanting to be in the know. To be part of that aspect of the group. And I’ve been kicking myself ever since.
It makes me a hypocrite. It makes me feel bad. And it starts the paranoid cycle of thoughts that if they’re talking about them that way, how do they talk about me?
With my anxiety, I have to work hard at shutting down this thought cycle. I have a tendency to obsess and over-think. It’s just who I am and how I think.
In order to live guilt and anxiety free, though, I have to actually be the person I want to be. I have to remember to not feed into the negative cycles. To do my part to stop perpetuating harmful and damaging attitudes towards others.
I have to realize that my desire to make people comfortable needs to stop at the point where they are acting in a way that is harmful to others and uncomfortable to me. While I know that gossip is basically ‘harmless’ and most people just like to ‘vent’, I don’t like it.
Anger and hate breed anger and hate. Just like my anxiety, I need to just stop it. Stop it before it spirals. Stop it before I begin feeding into it, harming myself and others.