A very close friend and I were talking the other day and I realized she no longer speaks ill of anyone. If I mentioned being annoyed by something another friend did, I noticed she wouldn't join in, or comment in anyway. If anything she would defend said person, and would then go on to present some rationale for their annoying-ness. At first I felt bad for saying anything at all, but then I started to notice this friend follows the "if you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all" mantra. I brought it up to her and she said she is trying to be kinder to other women, and that we are in this together so the least we can do is support one another. I found this to be admirable.
I began to watch other women around me. Who is catty or gossipy, and for what reasons? When do I feel like saying things about people and why? When is talking about someone, talking behind their back, and when is it discussing or venting? I noticed that I didn't feel the need to talk about someone just because, and when I did feel the need to talk about someone who wasn't in my presence it was because I upset and needed to express myself.
I have a friend who studies the adolescent brain. She has a colleague who studies why people gossip. It was perfect timing the other day when I was upset about something and told my extremely smart friend about it. I finished my story with, "I am trying not to gossip.” She said she just leaned herself that it serves a strong purpose, and is not always a bad thing. People often gossip because it helps us gage what is okay and what isn't within relationships. We share a story, check in with someone else and based on their reaction know whether our response or instinct is matched. Then if the feelings that come up are shared, you feel less isolated about them.
I am not a "shove it under the rug" type of person. I typically express feelings and don't hold them in. Maybe even to a fault. So practicing speaking only positively about other women only worked until a friend got upset and made a negative comment towards me. Now, I am not going to say she is a bad person or disown her, but I needed to review what happened to check in that this wasn't something I actually did wrong. I was trying to not say anything when a mutual friend came to me with the same complaint about this women's actions. It was validating to know we were just in the wrong place when this person needed to vent.
I now know the difference between bad talking someone as if it is a fun sport, and sharing feelings about something someone has said or done. So I will continue being supportive to other women. I will not talk ill about a bad boob job, or what a bitch so and so can be, unless so and so directs those issues to me, then you might hear some whispers.