July 31, 2012

Gossip: A Destructive Habit. ~ DeAnna Shires Nielsen

In keeping with the recent theme of standards and ethics in yoga, I thought this week was a good time to talk about gossip within the yoga community. 

We’ve all heard it at one time or another and if we’re truly honest with ourselves, we’ve participated in it as well.

Initially, I started to write something and put out a call for inputs from yoga professionals all over North America and the response was amazing. But, once I saw DeAnna Shires Nielsen’s thoughts on the matter, I knew a great piece had already been written—but not by me. So, this week I’m turning my column over to Deanna.

“Using the analogy of the human mind as a computer, gossip can be compared to a computer virus. A computer virus is a piece of computer language written in the same language all the other codes are written in, but with a harmful intent.” ~Don Miguel Ruiz, The Four Agreements

All of us have, at some point been the victims of hurtful gossip and all of us have been the issuer of gossip or the entertainer of gossip. I am writing this because as a child I was bullied and as an adult, after opening a yoga studio, I have been a victim of gossip (another form of bullying) and it has hurt me deeply, making me feel confused, helpless, and tired. I was surprised, in a community of teachers and students teaching and preaching love, awareness, and peace that there lived so much fear, judgment, and anger.

As a general rule, I never say anything I wouldn’t say to someone myself and if I hear something, I go to the source and ask questions. Asking questions can clear the air in most cases, finding perceptions were clouded, though, I have found that some people would rather hold on to negativity and the image they have created of someone rather than be open to the “truth” through an honest discussion. Even more opportunity to practice awareness, is to do inventory of a person’s overall character. Is anyone reading this right now perfect?

As a yoga community, are we not all searching for self-realization, the true purpose of yoga? Hiding behind gossip and/or using it as ammunition moves one away from self-realization and becomes destructive to ourselves and others, hindering the progress of all of us. No matter how “big” or “small” the gossip may seem, chances are it will become much larger than you could have ever imagined as your words take on a life of their own.

Oh, but how boring life would be if we could not talk about each other, because, after all, humans are the most fascinating creatures of them all! Here are some guidelines that might help:

“Good” Gossip/Sharing

In general, we rarely kick back and talk about how great someone is or how wonderful it is they have such a lovely life, but we should do more of this.

I admire people who can find something positive to say about everyone, even when that person has hurt him or her in some way. I believe these people have more awareness and allow for the human condition of making mistakes and/or the understanding that our perception of a situation may be skewed. We can express opinions without being judgmental. We can look at all sides of a situation and find a common ground. This keeps unity in place. This is the path toward yoga.

“Bad” Gossip/Harmful Intent

There is a line between sharing to get clarification and vengeful gossip.

The first thing you should do if you have a problem with someone is go to them directly before you spread harmful words that may not be the truth, but rather a misunderstanding. Assume that the person you are about to “trash” may not even realize what they have done, may be struggling with some sort of crisis which causes them to act out of character, and/or consider your own view might be clouded due to your own life experience at any given moment. Going forth and blindly insulting someone’s character or actions or going along with someone who is doing this is destructive and hurtful. This path destroys friendships, families, communities, and personal character. This is not the path toward yoga.

The Issuer’s Intent “Tear someone down”

Jealousy, and/or Revenge: To feel superior by bringing someone else down.

 “The lighter your light, the more people can feel their own darkness. “~Chris Courtney *One of my favorite quotes ever in the history of ever.

For Control, Power, and/or Fear: Those who do not want to see anyone else succeed so they are always on top.

To feel a part of a group: If they have something to say, it will make them feel more valuable.

Boredom: If their life is not interesting, they may gravitate towards situations that are.

The Entertainers Role “Taking Sides”

All of the above applies to this, but I would say the entertainer is even more responsible for the hurtful gossip because he/she gives life to the gossip.

Many times the person is “taking sides” without the victim of the gossip ever having done anything to them. This is a situation that tears friendships and communities apart.

In my experience, finding out that an issuer has gone to my friends to spread ill intention about me, then my friends not tell me and also not defend my character has resulted in a loss of trust between some close friends and myself and this I find the most hurtful of all. Proverbs 16:28 A perverse man stirs up dissension, and a gossip separates close friends.  I have also witnessed a change in treatment from one person and then all of a sudden anyone associated with that person also starts treating me differently. Again, I always ask questions when these things begin to happen, but I do not always get an answer.

Have you ever found yourself saying, ”OMG, I know, you are sooo right about that, I never thought about that? He or she is just as you say! If so, you are being swayed and giving life to something that may not even be true. If we want peace, then we must ask questions and form our own opinions, not because we want someone else to like us, but because it is the “right” thing to do.

In fact, I have defended a couple of people who have trashed me because I do not believe in adding fuel to the fire and do know, deep down, they are hurting just like I am.  If you find yourself being put on the spot as an Entertainer, try using the role to play Devil’s advocate and perhaps you can help them see other views they may not be seeing clearly through their own pain and frustration.

How The Victim Feels:

Alone, devastated, helpless, embarrassed, used, betrayed, and the list goes on.

Never underestimate the power gossip causes, no matter how “strong” or “put together” the person you are gossiping about appears. Chances are, the person you are gossiping about is just as sensitive as you are and maybe even more so.

Personally, I have done the cliché thing of doing the “ugly” cry while in the fetal position in my bathroom or walk-in closet. Oh. and then there are the tattoos I got to cover up the pain (dumb). There was also the time I screamed from the depths of my broken heart in fits of frustration in front of a chosen friend when I have had no other way to defend myself where I shouted, ”I am innocent, I’m a good person, Why is this happening?!” Then the therapy happened, but we won’t go there.

How to Stop Gossiping (Because I know everyone wants to stop it now)

1) Go to the source, ask questions and clear the air (Integrity)

2) Look at the overall character of the person. (Awareness)

3) Tell an issuer to “Go to the person they are taking about” (Teach them it is okay to communicate openly) without taking sides.

4) Form your own opinions about people, but always act from a place of compassion, realizing gossipers are hurting, angry or feel as if they are “not enough.”

5) Ask yourself if what you are about to say going to improve on the silence or cause more damage.

6) Stop buying gossip centered magazines or watching gossipy TV shows.

7) Choose a couple of close friends you can confide in who you know will call you on your words if they become gossipy or you cross the line. (I have made this pact with a couple of close friends and my poor husband, bless his heart chakra).

8) If something happens between yourself and someone else, do an inventory of your entire relationship with the person. How have they helped you in the past? What do they do for others? What do they do for your community?  A favorite quote of mine is, ”Blessed are those who give without remembering and receive without forgetting.” This quote has shown me that even those who have gossiped about me have done good things for me and therefore, I cannot judge them on this one thing, no matter how harmful it has been to me.

If you do these things you cannot hide what is truly going on inside of yourself and it is an opportunity for growth. We should want others to grow and live in peace, just as we want to grow and live in peace. Mother Teresa said, ”If we have no peace in the world, it is because we have forgotten we belong to each other.”  Please be kind and take care of each other. Ahimsa.


DeAnna Shires Nielsen (a bunch of letters and numbers go here showing off all of her impressive accomplishments) is a full time mom and wife person, who, in her spare time does a little writing, teaches Hatha Yoga & Ayurveda with an emphasis on emotional healing (“Heal Yourself, Heal the World”), owns a Yoga Studio, believes heartily in riding Bicycles (but not when hot or windy or rainy or really when any sort of atmospheric condition prevails), makes jewelry imbued with special magical Reiki powers for her favorite charity Smile Train, and wants to play the guitar less crappily when she grows up (but she doesn’t believe in the growing up part).

You can find her at her yoga studio www.blueanjou.com, or sometimes on her Blog www.itsayogathang.blogspot.com, or REALLY often on Facebook www.facebook.com/deanna.s.nielsen


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