Gossip happens when people become bored

Published 8:00 pm Saturday, September 20, 2014

The Nice Advice, by Leah Albert

Dear Leah,

I’ve been friends with the same group of people for a long time. We have so many memories together, but lately it seems like all we do when we get together is gossip about others. I don’t want to spend time with them anymore. Should I just stop being friends with them?

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— Gossiped Out

Dear Gossiped Out,

There’s a saying I really appreciate and it goes like this: Small minds talk about people, normal minds talk about things, great minds talk about ideas.

I’m not saying your friends are small-minded. I’m sure they are truly nice people, but they have developed a bad habit and definitely need a new perspective. It’s so limiting to spend time gossiping.

It’s a sad fact that for years reality television has had a large viewership precisely for the very drama you are so vexed with. I do believe the tides are turning and our society is recognizing there is more to life than raking others through the coals. But you can’t wait 10 years for your friends to catch on, so I’ll share a few ideas.

I highly recommend changing the venue where you gather or inviting your friends to participate in an activity other than drinking and eating, if that is how you gather. By changing things up and engaging them in different ways, your friends will be less likely to fall back on old habits, such as gossiping and will be more likely to talk about other things. There are so many interesting topics to cover, especially among close friends.

One possible activity is a group painting class. They have grown in popularity and the activity will help you gain a new perspective of each other. We all have a different view of the world and unique ways of expressing ourselves. This is something good friendships should celebrate!

You could suggest each friend host a night to showcase and teach a craft or hobby she enjoys. This will help enrich future conversations.

People tend to talk about others when they are bored with their own lives or depressed or jealous; none are good reasons.

However, such conversations can be constructive if you are truly concerned about others and wish to help in some way. You can make an effort to alter the intent of the conversation, from one that belittles and demeans others to one that is informative, compassionate and helpful.

For example, if you’ve heard about a divorce or infidelity, your group could make plans to positively interact with the individual who was hurt. Rather than indulging in speculations, laying blame or discussing details of business that doesn’t involve you, you all can choose to recognize an opportunity to help make someone’s day a little brighter.

Life is hard enough — we should use our time and energy to help rather than harm.


Leah Albert is a fictitious character. She likes wine and writing. Don’t ask her to be a matchmaker. Do send your questions to Leah at theniceadviceleahalbert@gmail.com.