Psych Siren

As a former student leader, model and beauty queen, I’ve been in the public arena. I must admit, it’s not easy. People will either love you or hate you to bits! What’s worse—you’ll find yourself figuring prominently in rumors so far removed from reality, it’s either embarrassingly flattering or humiliatingly gut-wrenching.

            That’s why I often wonder, why do people gossip?

Some say because it’s fun. It provides a relief from their life concerns and allows them to live the drama of another person’s life. Others say it’s a product of idleness and not having anything better to do. Still others consider talking about other people as their right—if someone is behaving in a reprehensible manner, chismis about him or her is a direct and inevitable consequence of their behavior.

What very few people realize is the insidious damage that gossip does to the fabric of trust in relationships. I for one, stay away from people who gossip about others in my presence. You can be sure they talk nasty about you when you’re not around! It’s difficult to trust someone who would malign another person who’s not there to defend himself.

Gossip also has a way of changing you and your manner of relating. Once you are immersed in a gossiping sub-culture, your entire view of the world will change. You’ll start taking on an undue concern in other people’s lives. More often than not, you’ll be looking for negative things about them you can pass along and less on your concerns and personal issues. The quality of your life and personhood will no longer be defined by your personal benchmarks, but how much better you fare in comparison to others. Once you relinquish your power to define your life and what’s good for you, you also make yourself vulnerable to insecurities that precede pathological gossiping. And the cycle perpetuates itself.

What is it about gossip that keeps people hooked?

Sharing dirt about someone—whether it’s a co-worker, an in-law, a relative or a mutual acquaintance –creates a veneer of intimacy and bond. What people do not realize is that this kind of intimacy is false and shallow. Companies, families or barkadas that are immersed in gossiping typically do not share their innermost pains, struggles and desires with each other, even though they consider themselves “close.” It’s difficult to feel truly safe and secure in this kind of environment.

Which brings us to another important question—where do all these chismis come from?

Chismis comes from people. Pardon me from stating the obvious. But for malicious, slanderous talk to proliferate, it needs people to generate it, conjure up, chew on it and pass it on. More often than not, chismis is baseless and unwarranted although sometimes it has some semblance of truth to it. Oftentimes, people use the saying –“walang usok kapag walang apoy” as a means to justify their own perspectives rather than what actually happened.

Generally, it pays to mind your own business and make it a habit not to talk about other people. I also try my best to keep in mind that—if I can’t say anything nice, I might as well not say anything at all! But there comes a time when it is necessary to talk about people who are not present. How can we differentiate between slander and sharing? On this issue, I find that it is helpful to check the condition of our hearts. Are we sharing this information to put another person down or because we need someone to help share the burden of our pain? Is it useful to share this information or will it complicate things? Do these things need to be said? And as Ignatian spirituality puts it—It is important to ask ourselves, “is this life giving?”

One of the most important skills an effective and emotionally healthy individual must learn is managing information wisely. How do we cope with chismis? It really depends on the situation. But it’s helpful to ask yourself these questions: Is it necessary to confront the chismosa or chismoso? Would that be the healthiest course of action? Is this person worth your time? Can you reason with him or her? It’s also important to remember that some chismis is not worth dignifying with a comment. Mas buang ka kung makliglalis ka sa buang! Sayang ang laway mo kung aaksayahin mo sa sira-ulo! (it’s foolish to argue with a fool! Don’t waste your breath.) With some people, you just have to shake your head, walk away and say—Chismis lang yan!!!

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