I know that almost everyone has issues with negativity, gossip and drama but I believe it's becoming a dangerous habit - and sometimes scary tool - for me and I'd like to stop or at least better control my own behavior and contributions.
posted by anonymous to human relations (23 answers total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
Try as I might to not get overly involved with things, I have an all-or-nothing personality and solid leadership qualities, so it's not enough for me to throw myself into activities 100%, but unfailingly the other people involved in activities quickly put me in charge of things. (And naturally, I can't say "no," because I'm 100% into this thing and I know I can make it better! Of course I'll help!) I bring this up because I think the easy answer to my question would be to just engage where it's rewarding and disengage elsewhere, but not only is it difficult for me to do that, but in the right situation, I love this passionate quality about myself and not only has it rewarded me in many ways, but it’s pretty much the core of my personality. I also enjoy being tapped to lead things and have been rewarded by leadership roles over and over.
The problem areas are not related to my career. I used to have gossip/negativity issues in the workplace but I’ve combated that by keeping communication really open, dealing with conflict immediately, and it seems to help that I work for a small company of about a dozen people – fewer personalities in the mix appears to result in less opportunity for conflict and drama. Oh, and everyone I work with is my age (mid-30s) or older – mature adults.
Where I really struggle is in hobby/social areas of my life. The key example right now is an activity I’m involved in that is very intensive – we meet several times a week, I met most of my closest friends through it (people I adore, and cutting them out is not an option) and I love absolutely love doing it. There are about 50 people involved and they span all ages – late teens to early 50s – so of course, the above-mentioned maturity level is not guaranteed. And in my usual fashion, I have taken on a couple of leadership roles but am absolutely not top dog.
The problem is when conflict arises. I jump to be negative, gossip viciously in the name of “venting” and can at times be positively Machiavellian in the way I process/use information I receive. I am so ashamed of my behavior but keep doing the same things over and over. Many times, the outcome is good (so I’m again rewarded!) but I still feel shitty about my role in how we got there.
I’ve tried applying the strategies that have been successful for me in professional settings but they fail miserably here. I’ve been stonewalled, I’ve witnessed tantrums and oh my, the internet-based passive aggression techniques of people in their early-20s. I guess the varied maturity levels, combined with the larger array of personalities, are thwarting my usual drama-avoiding strategies.
So over and over, I find myself, a woman in her mid-30s, dragged down to this terrible level.
That’s just an example – the activity is still far more good than bad or I would have quit already. It’s just a great example of what happens to me and I find it to be true in other areas of my life. I’m just too damn quick to resort to gossip and negativity, and I’m starting to dislike myself. Other people’s levels of negativity/gossip are okay with me – I just need help reigning in my own.
It never starts out as bashing on someone. It starts out with me and another person discussing a neutral situation, and then someone brings up a problem, and then it’s like I go into a fugue state and wake up half an hour later having said all kinds of negative things and ugh. Oh, I’m really, really obsessive too, so not only am I quick to be negative but then once I get there, the problem still exists so I just cannot let it go and it spirals down and down. I don’t want to trivialize real addictions by comparing them to my dumb problem but it’s kind of how this feels – I know it’s bad for me, I know it makes me feel bad, I know it could backfire but I just can’t seem to stop going back for more.
Humans are wired to gossip – I’m living proof – and then once we do gossip, valuable information is exchanged and friendship bonds are formed and the reward centers of the brain are buzzing. Those gratifying results are clear as day to me, and I don’t doubt that this is why I keep doing it. I just HATE IT, and I really hate how I seem to be unable to control it on my own. When I think about this part of myself I feel embarrassed and ashamed.
One sticky bit: I am a reporter by trade and need to keep myself available to all sorts of information streams. Quitting gossip cold turkey is not an option for me. I need people to feel they can confide in me, but I have to figure out how to do that outside of my professional life, without having to resort to the bond-forming benefits of gossip to get there.
I should also specify that if you met me, you wouldn't describe me as a mean or negative person. I work hard to be kind to people and am really patient and encouraging when others struggle. My friendships and my relationship are overall close and trusting and awesome, although I feel the fallout of my habit has driven some acquaintances away. I've also been described as annoyingly optimistic, so it's not that I have a generally negative worldview - I just keep falling into a bad habit.
Does anyone have any advice? I’m considering meditation classes and therapy – there’s a cost issue for therapy but if I decide that’s truly what will help me deal with this crappy part of myself, I’ll make it happen. I’d also love to hear any success stories from people who have combated similar issues. I’ve been googling my fingers off and all I can find is stuff about cutting drama queens from your life – I’m fine there. Just not sure how to more effectively curb these negative qualities in myself. If anyone wants to offer up advice but also feels embarrassed about having been a gossipy jerk, throwaway email is email@example.com