Ep. 52: Gossip and Mindful Speech

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Today we’re talking about gossip and mindful speech. Gossip may at first seem to be relatively benign when it comes to things to “work on.” However, it’s causes more problem with living your best life than you might think. Tibetan Buddhist teacher, Pabongka Rinpoche, says, “Idle gossip is the best way to waste our human lives.” Kind of a serious statement, right? So I thought it might be worth spending some time on.

First, what is “gossip?”

One definition is “casual or unconstrained conversation or reports about other people, typically involving details, that are not confirmed as being true.” And that mostly works, but gossip is more than just talking about people. It can be about politics, or a scientific theory not backed by data that we pretend is truth, or unverified news (aka fake news.)

What differentiates gossip from boring but benign chit chat? We can ask ourselves:

What is our motivation when we speak?

When we’re trying to figure out what we should or shouldn’t say, we can always ask ourselves: “What is my INTENT?”

If it’s motivated by thoughts of jealousy, of us wanting to be or look better than them, of attachment, or even of us wanting them to hurt in some way, then the conversation can easily turn to gossip. Some of these thoughts might be subconscious, but if we pay close attention, we can begin to catch ourselves in (or before) we open our mouths.

There’s definitely some self-compassion required here, because we have to summon the courage to take a look inward at our motivation. Without that, we may not see when we have less-than-ideal motives. Just remember: what we DO is not who we ARE.

There’s definitely something about gossip and a lack of mindful speech that keeps us from cultivating a peaceful, compassionate, wise, loving mind. It’s exhausting to dish out, and frankly, it’s just as exhausting to receive it or be around it.

So why do we do it?

In a way, it’s totally natural.

People want to connect and feel like they belong. We are social beings! 

And often, we’re trained to connect with others through drama or discussion about someone or something else.

Examples of other reasons we convince ourselves to gossip:

  • To improve our self esteem
  • To right a wrong that’s been done to us
  • To connect when we feel left out
  • To feel better when we are jealous of someone
  • To create a sense of safety when we are feeling anxious or scared

You can learn more about these in the pod, but what’s ironic is that gossiping does the exact opposite of all the above. 

It disconnects, creates less safety, and has us feeling shittier about ourselves and to us losing our self-respect.

So, what should we do instead? 

First, start with self-compassion. Recognize the suffering and that we tried to push it away with gossip. What are we avoiding by looking outward instead of inward? Why are we holding up the magnifying glass instead of the mirror?

We also need to become aware of the root cause: We don’t believe in our inherent lovability and worthiness… which is our BIRTHRIGHT.

Once we get honest with ourselves, then the true work can begin. When we do all this, we will begin to notice that our self-respect improves too. Our behavior toward others naturally changes. And their responses to us will transform along with that.

You can also always remember the mnemonic, THINK, which is great as a guide for mindful speech:

Is it True?
Is it Helpful?
Is it Inspiring?
Is it Necessary?
Is it Kind?

Imagine how many things wouldn’t get said or put out into the world if we followed these guidelines! And how much less suffering there would be.

Topics in this week’s podcast:

// The true definition of gossip
// How gossip affects us
// 5 of the main reasons we gossip even when we know it’s bad for us (and those we love)
// 5 tips for gossiping less
// How to THINK before we speak
// a challenge for you to take on this week – you might surprise yourself!


// Check out last week’s blog on self-compassion

// Check out this episode on generating sympathetic joy (mudita) for others when you might otherwise feel jealous

// Here the free Unshakeable Confidence training I mention

// If you’re new to the squad, grab the starter kit I created at RebelBuddhist.com. It has all you need to start creating a life of more freedom, adventure, and purpose. You’ll get access to the private Facebook group where you can ask me questions! Once you join, there’s also a weekly FB live called Wake the F*ck Up Wednesday, where you can ask questions that come up as you do this work – in all parts of your life.

// If you’re interested in finding out more about how to free your mind and free your life, join Freedom School. Enrollment is open, and we are diving DEEP into ways to cultivate clarity and courage so you can create your best life. There are also some sweet bonuses courses for you I there. It will set you up to live the best version of you in the year to come. Learn more at JoinFreedomSchool.com