Sharing grievances turns into an act of gossip, when we start to talk ill of someone. It is often a response to conflict or stress. And, it is common in our workplaces. But, it is more often harmful than positive.

To clear up the negative impact of gossip, Diana Chapman, Founder of the Conscious Leadership Group, recommends using ‘The Clearing Model,’ which differentiates between the facts of a situation, and the stories we’ve made up about it. It allows us to achieve understanding and clarity.

Before you solve the issue with the person you are gossiping about, separate these two aspects:

  • Facts, which are objective data, and can’t be argued with. It is what a video camera would record.
  • Stories are interpretations of facts. They include opinions, beliefs, judgements, and perspectives.
Quarterly sales are down by 5% The sales team isn’t doing a good job at all
I wasn’t invited to a team dinner last week My team leader doesn’t like me or my work
My colleague was 15 minutes late to a meeting She doesn’t respect my time, or care about work

Once you’re ready, start a conversation using the flow below. Remember, this conversation comes only after you have owned up and apologized to your colleague that you have been gossiping about them.

  1. Affirm the relationship. Share that you want to address the issue because you care about the relationship you have with the person. Try, “Shiela, I want to clear this issue with you, because I care about our work camaraderie. Thanks for being willing to listen to me.”
  2. State the facts. From where I stand, the facts are that for the last 7 or 8 meetings, you have been late by 15-20 minutes each time.”
  3. Talk about the stories you made up. Due to that, the story in my head is that you don’t care for the project, and don’t like working with me, or that you don’t respect my time. Since you’re not prioritizing, this project will fall through the cracks.”
  4. How do you feel? I feel worried, and angry when I put the facts and the story together.”
  5. Own up your actions. “I didn’t speak to you directly the first couple of times it happened. But I kept growing resentful, and ended up criticizing you to other team members. I also recognize that I haven’t created clear agreements with you about timelines or punctuality.”
  6. Share what you want. Moving forward, I would really like you to check-in with me about delays, and share if you have challenges you are facing, so I can understand the situation better. From my side, I’ll talk to you first, and not criticize.”

What does the listener do? Just listen, clarify if you heard things right, ask questions if there is something more you’d like to know. And then, move on with the healthier dynamic!

Breaking the habit of gossip helps achieve more creativity, an authentic work culture, happier employee relationships, and an ability to move through conflict with ease. Do you want it?

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