For the Press About Us Tell A Friend Watch the Video Get the Handbook Free Newsletter Take the Pledge
Home Navigation
Get the Handbook

Home   (Handbook)


Buy the Handbook

Table of Contents

Introduction & Acknowledgements

1: Life is Not a Sitcom

2: Yada, Yada, Yada

3: Treasure Chest

4: Work & Home Survival Guide

5: Success Stories

About Words Can Heal

About the Authors


The Handbook Online

Chapter 2: Yada, Yada, Yada

Let everyone know that Words Can Heal. Make sure to tell your friends.

  1. Send a friend a link to the site
  2. Buy a copy of the handbook Proceeds go to benefit Educational Programs
  3. Print out as many copies of the book that you like

Three people are
damaged by gossip:

the gossiper

the listener

the victim

One simple comment
can travel far, damaging
everyone in its wake.

If you havenít got anything nice to say about anybody, come sit next to me.
- (name withheld so as not to gossip)

It might seem obvious to you that saying hurtful words or yelling at someone will push that person away from you. But other forms of negative speech are much more subtle. Take gossip, for example.

While we are gossiping, we donít think that we are hurting anyone at all. We are simply engaging in small talk. But innocuous chitchat can far too quickly turn into derogatory speech. This is what makes gossip so dangerous. Precisely because it feels so innocuous, we need to be extremely vigilant.
Negative speech is any form of speech (gossip included) that might cause damage such as mental anguish, financial loss, physical pain, tarnished reputation, or the lowering of someoneís esteem in othersí eyes.
As you will see in this chapter, words can cause a great deal of damage.

What is it about gossip that makes people lean in a little closer to catch every juicy word? Why do people feel the urge to share a scandalous tidbit? Itís only human, right?

Some people say that gossip is an important bonding tool for business and social groups. But we have all been hurt by unkind words spoken about us, and we have all seen how derogatory speech and gossip can drive children to revenge and violence. Further, the bond that negative speech creates is a false one. There can be no trust in a relationship based on gossip because both parties fear being each otherís next victim. If we gossip, we live a lonely life of deception, in which no one trusts us.

The secret to having a happy social and business life is to be surrounded by people you trust having friends who will not deride you to others and who will have your best interests at heart. If you choose to be friends with people who donít gossip about others, then you can be reasonably certain that they wonít gossip about you. Just remember: those kinds of special people also look for friends who donít gossip, so you need to be a good friend to have a good friend.

The secret to having a happy social and business life is to be surrounded by people you trust.

In business, there are those who believe that gossip is an important part of the company culture, that being in the loop creates a sense of camaraderie and closeness. Wisecracks, humorous banter, and friendly ridiculing of each other may seem to give the office a warm and fuzzy feeling, but just below the surface lies the fear of being the next victim. It is far more valuable for everyone to trust each other than it is to be able to laugh together. Besides, there are many ways to spread humor without putting people down.

Chitchat at the water cooler, where co-workers waste time denigrating others, hurts company productivity.
For business managers, the ultimate competitive advantage is staff members who totally trust each other, a condition only available in a gossip-free environment.
Further, spreading rumors creates a climate of vulnerability that no one can escape. The mental energy needed to protect oneself from slander and ridicule mars everyoneís ability to perform optimally. Truly, for business managers, the ultimate competitive advantage is staff members who totally trust each other, a condition only available in a gossip-free environment.

Gossip is not just a simple way to pass the time. It causes grave damage in each instance, without exception. If we want to have great relationships, we have to learn to develop trust and avoid speaking badly of others.

Allison & Kevin

Allison hung up the phone. She ran down the stairs and out into the backyard, leaving the door wide open. She didnít care if the cat got out, because her life was falling apart.

What Marcie, her best friend, had just told her was devastating. But it had to be true, since Allison knew that Marcie never lied.

Allison sat under the oak tree, buried her face in her hands, and cried. She was six months pregnant and deeply in love with her husband, Kevin. Until a moment ago, she had believed she was the luckiest woman in the world. Now she knew that it had been too good to be true.

She thought for awhile. It all started to make sense - the late hours, the mysterious phone calls, the strange new expenses Kevin seemed to have.

Now that Marcie had caught him red-handed having lunch with this woman, it could not be denied. Allison cried, full of self-pity.

She heard Kevinís car pull up, but she ignored it, preferring instead to have him race through the house looking for her. Let him think something terrible had happened, she thought to herself.

It takes your enemy and your friend, working together, to hurt you to the heart; the one to slander you and the other to get the news to you.

- Mark Twain

Kevin finally found her under the tree, puffy eyed and sullen. He tried to put his arm around her, but she pulled away.

Allison had her baby to think about; she had no time to play games. She confronted Kevin directly about what Marcie had seen.

It took less than five minutes for the issue to be resolved. For the past three months, Kevin had been planning a surprise party for Allisonís thirtieth birthday with a party planner; it was all set for a week away. He pulled out the party plannerís brochure with scribbled notes all over it as proof.

Allison was greatly relieved, but the incident truly shook her to the core. She had thought nothing could spoil the trust that she and Kevin had built over three beautiful years of marriage. She was shocked at how easily it had come unraveled and that after all they had been through together, she hadnít been able to give him the benefit of the doubt.

We all want others to give us the benefit of the doubt, but we often find it difficult to do so for them.

As for Marcie, she had seen Kevin having lunch with a woman; she had no proof that he was being unfaithful to Allison. There were many things Marcie could have done instead of calling Allison. She could have forgotten the incident, tried to get definitive proof, or spoken to Kevin privately. Marcie may have thought she was being a good friend, but instead she hurt Allison terribly. Of course, Allison should not have believed Marcie; she should have given Kevin the benefit of the doubt.

Before you let your emotions get the best of you, check it out first. Donít believe a rumor unless itís proven to be true.

If you can remember that there are almost no circumstances when it is acceptable to gossip, you will always know what to do in these types of situations. Usually it will be to refrain from saying anything. And when listening to the gossip of others, always remember not to believe it unless it is proven beyond a shadow of a doubt.

We all have an urge to gossip, particularly when
it feels like the information we are conveying
can help someone. However, there is
usually another side to every story.

A Folktale

A young man spread a false rumor about an old man who lived at the end of his street. Overcome with guilt, he worked up the courage to apologize. He humbly walked to the old manís door and said he was sorry. The wise old man looked at him. He said that he would forgive him, but first he must take a feather pillow to the top of a hill and pop it so that all the feathers spread in the wind. The young man thought it a strange request, but he did as the old man asked. Afterward, he went to report this to the old man and asked for forgiveness again. The old man said that when the young man collected all of the feathers, then he would be forgiven.

Our words, like feathers, get scattered everywhere. The next time you are tempted to pass gossip along, remember that once your words are spoken, they can never be taken back.

Do not repeat anything you will not sign your name to.
- Author Unknown

Ruth Smith & Trina

As Trina sat in the coffee shop, she overheard someone mention that Ruth was getting married to the new lawyer in the office. Thrilled at the news, Trina told everyone within earshot. News traveled fast. Soon Ruth got a phone call of congratulations. Ruth had no idea what the caller was talking about. It turned out that Ruth Webber was marrying the lawyer; Ruth Smith was as single as ever.

A year later, the office manager, Dorothy, had a nephew coming to town. He seemed like a perfect match for still-single Ruth Smith. Dorothy discussed it with the computer specialist, Angie, who nixed the idea. She said she remembered that Ruth had cruelly broken off an engagement before. She wouldnít set her own nephew up with a woman like that.

Angieís words seemed to ring a bell, and Dorothy didnít bother to check whether the information was accurate. Ruth Smith remained single for another two years.

Even a harmless piece of information
about somebody else, one that seems as if it cannot
possibly cause any damage, can. There is plenty to
talk about without having to resort to talking about
other people, for good or for ill.

Remember playing telephone? One person would start off, and by the end of the chain, the message would be completely different. How can we believe gossip knowing how distorted a rumor gets as it goes along the chain?

Tasha & Laurel

Tasha stood on the playground. She was the new kid in the fourth grade. She had been quite popular in her old school, but now nobody would talk to her. She maneuvered her way over to the swing set where the most popular girl in school, Laurel, sat on a chair, many girls vying for her attention. As Tasha approached, the girls got quiet. Laurel stared at Tasha, but Tasha was not intimidated in the slightest. Laurel asked her harshly what she wanted.

Tasha, acting coy, replied that she knew something very interesting about their teacher, Mrs. Gray. Laurel got out of her seat and walked toward Tasha. In short order, Laurel had sent everyone away so that Tasha could confide a juicy bit of gossip. Tasha was instantly assured membership in the in-group.

Whoever gossips to you will gossip about you.

- Spanish Proverb

Bonding. It is vital to our happiness. But if itís done through gossip, the whole relationship is built on a sham. These two girls were not trusted companions; they were co-conspirators in a crime against Mrs. Gray. Their artificial feelings of closeness may have made them feel good for the moment, but in reality, they could never trust each other and both of them knew it. They used each other for social gain but had no sense of loyalty to each other. All of this at the tender age of nine.

Our urge to bond is strong, but let the bond be real.
We all have a deep longing to be close to one another;
we simply donít realize that it is our own mouth
that is sabotaging our happiness.

Jamie & Lydia

In the middle of a charity dinner, Jamie ran up to Lydia, who was standing in the hotel lobby.
If they donít have an audience, gossipers canít gossip
. . . Period.
Jamie began a tirade about how angry she was at Felicia for seating her next to people she barely knew. She said that Felicia had also put her own name first in the dinner brochure even though Jamie had done most of the work for the event.

Lydia, who had worked with Felicia before, knew that she had a tendency to hog the spotlight. Jamie and Lydia swapped stories until Meg came up to them. They shared all of the stories with her.

Just then Felicia walked up and asked if they were enjoying themselves. They all nodded. Felicia turned to get a drink from the bar, and they resumed their discussion. They didnít realize that Felicia could hear every word they said. The women were merciless in their character assassination.

The next day, Lydia got a phone call from the president of the organization. He reported that Felicia had quit, saying that she had never realized how much everyone hated her. Figuring out that Felicia must have overheard them, Lydia told the president everything that had been said about Felicia.

Silence condones gossip. If you listen to someone gossip, you are responsible for its damage even if you donít repeat it.

The president set Lydia straight. He explained that he had managed the seating arrangements by himself to make sure that there was one volunteer per table. Furthermore, Feliciaís name was first in the brochure because she had done much more work than Jamie had. Jamie hadnít followed through on anything she had promised, leaving Felicia with twice as much work. The president said he had put Feliciaís name first against her wishes.

Lydia felt horrible. She realized that she had been wrong to gossip and felt even worse that Felicia had heard it all. She spoke with Jamie and Meg, and the three of them bought Felicia a gift and apologized. Fortunately, Felicia was big enough to forgive them. She came back to volunteer for the organization.

Even if the gossip victim is not within earshot, pretend
he or she is. That will help you to avoid gossiping.
And remember, if we donít listen,
gossipers canít gossip.

Why People Gossip

  • to raise their stature
  • to show intellectual prowess
  • to bond with others
  • to get validation
  • to show off their wit at anotherís expense
  • to cover for their lack of conversational skills
  • to mitigate jealousy
  • to vent anger
  • to get revenge
  • to impress others that they are in the loop

Talking comes by nature; silence by wisdom.
- Author Unknown

Bettina & Jim

Bettina and Jim worked in the same machine shop. Bettina mentioned to Jim that it was the floor managerís birthday and that they should throw him a little surprise party. Jim got all of the other employees to chip in, bought a card and a cake, and took credit for the idea. At the party itself, the director praised Jim profusely. Bettina got angrier by the minute.

After the party, Bettina confronted Jim about it. He said he remembered the conversation clearly, and he was certain that he had thought of the idea. Rather than giving Jim the benefit of the doubt, that maybe he simply misunderstood their original conversation, Bettina walked away seething.

A week later, a co-worker asked Bettina if he should hire Jim on the weekends for a home repair job. Instead of remaining impartially honest and admitting Jimís capabilities, Bettina used the opportunity to get revenge, and spoke badly of him. She felt totally justified in doing so. As a result, Jim lost the opportunity to work on a lucrative project.

Even if Jim had purposely stolen Bettinaís idea, there was no benefit in denigrating Jim. Maybe Jim stole the idea because he was going through a difficult time in his life and needed approval from someone.

If Bettina was too upset to speak well of him, she should have simply said nothing. If she were in his shoes and had made the mistake of taking credit for something, wouldnít she want to be forgiven? If Bettina had decided not to gossip, she would have saved herself a lot of aggravation and would also have made a decision toward more trusting, caring relationships. She then would be able to rise above her grievance and perhaps even act magnanimously.

Feeling justified in speaking badly of others
does not make it right. Making a habit of refraining
from derogatory speech will make it easier to
act kindlier in every way.

The things most people want to know about are usually none of their business.
- George Bernard Shaw

The tongue weighs practically nothing, but so few people can hold it.
- Anonymous


Elaine hauled herself up the stairs. The baby was crying again. After so many years of trying to have a third child, Elaine felt awful for not enjoying every minute of it, but nothing seemed to soothe little Tyler, day or night. Elaine hadnít slept much in days.

She picked up the baby and rocked him back and forth in her arms. The phone rang, but Elaine didnít have the strength to get it. She sat down and began to give Tyler his bottle. The phone rang again. Angry at the noise, Elaine kicked shut the door to the babyís room. After taking a long time to finish his bottle,
Even when you know youíre right and are justified in your position, itís still wrong to speak unkindly about someone.
Tyler finally fell asleep in Elaineís arms. She carefully placed him in his crib and fell fast asleep in the chair next to him.

She was awakened when Tylerís older sisters burst into the room crying. Elaine had forgotten to pick them up from school, and one of the teachers had driven them home.

The teacher, who had to go very far out of her way, had yelled at the children about how irresponsible their mother was. Not only had she forgotten them, but she didnít even answer her phone. As the teacher drove through the traffic and worked herself into an angrier state, she went on, saying that they should not use their mother as an example of how to behave. The children, feeling dejected, never got a chance to explain that their mother had a new baby at home.

People are often the cruelest when they are right.
It is very tempting to clobber someone when we
know they are wrong. But when we make a mistake,
we certainly wish others would be
more forgiving.

A gossip is one who talks to you about others; a bore is one who talks to you about himself; and a brilliant conversationalist is one who talks to you about yourself.

- Lisa Kirk

The Top Ten Tips for
Healing with Words

  • Bite your tongue before you gossip; your tongue will hurt, but your friends wonít.

  • Stop yourself from gossiping by changing the subject mid-sentence; only you will notice.

  • Never say derogatory things about yourself; people might agree with you.

  • Never use humor to put others down; joking around usually comes around.

  • Speak sweetly, so if you have to eat your words, they wonít taste so bad.

  • The gossip game always takes turns; the only way to avoid being "it" is to stop playing.

  • Trust makes a friendship; gossip takes it away.

  • You are the proud owner of a set of ears; use them at your own discretion.

  • To get friends who wonít gossip about you, you must be a friend who wonít gossip about them.

  • Stamp out gossip by voting with your feet; just walk away if someone gossips.


  1. We all have the urge to gossip, but there is usually another side to every story.

  2. Our words, like feathers, get scattered everywhere.

  3. Even a harmless piece of information can damage someone.

  4. Our urge to bond is strong, but let the bond be real.

  5. Donít let your mouth sabotage your happiness.

  6. Even if the gossip victim is not within earshot, pretend he or she is.

  7. Feeling justified in speaking badly of others doesnít make it right.

  8. People are often the cruelest when they are right.


Home |  Take the Pledge |  Free Newsletter |  Get the Handbook |  Watch The Video |  Tell A Friend
About Us |  For the Press |  Missions

© Copyright 2001 by Words Can Heal