How to stop my gossipy friend?

Afreet

Cathlete
I'm in a bit of a crisis about a friend and I was hoping some of you Open Discussants might chime in with opinions and/or advice. I have been friends with "Jen" for several years. She knows a lot about my personal life, as friends do. She has always been very gossipy. I used to think it was no big deal, but I realized a few years ago that it could get very bad, so I work hard to avoid gossip (hearing or sharing!), especially in the workplace - not just with this friend, but with anyone.

Recently, we began working in the same office, and she has been sharing a lot of information about me with our coworkers and supervisors. I know that she's been doing this, because I'll arrive at work and a coworker will tell me something like, "Oh, "Jen" said you like to work out, do you know anything about running shoes?" or ""Jen" mentioned that you have two dogs, do you have a vet in the area?". I haven't shared any personal information other than the basics (the town I live in, marital status, previous employment, whether I liked Movie X or Book Z, etc). Everyone in the office now seems to know all about my dietary preferences, my workout habits, the ups and downs of several past relationships, vacations, pets, activism, and who knows what else!

I don't like to share much personal information at work. Although my friend and I work together now, I still want to have boundaries in my life.

I definitely feel like my trust has been violated, and I'm pretty sure I need to take action before things go too far. It's not like I have any super-scary dark secrets or anything, but even apparently "harmless" information about your life can affect the way you're treated at work. I want to be judged on my work, not on an assortment of gossip items.

Any thoughts? Has anyone dealt with something like this before?
 

lcobb2

Cathlete
That's a tough one. I have a mother like this and have told her not to share any of my information with anyone. Have you confronted her? If not, start there. If so, and she's still doing it, tell her how you feel about it. If she chooses to continue to do so, then she will know that you do not want her to do so, but is of her own choosing, disrespecting you. That, in itself, is a betrayal. If she "just doesn't get it" then that will tell you how much she is willing to be a true friend. Even if she doesn't understand, she can still try to respect your request. A true friend would do this. Good luck!
 

Jaffas

Cathlete
I would start by simply asking her in a friendly way to not share your personal information about you with other people. I'm also a very private person and like to keep all the kind of stuff you mentioned to myself. A similar thing happened to me a long time ago, a friend of mine started going to the same hairdresser as me and all of the sudden the whole salon knew all sorts of stuff about me. When I asked her why she told them so much about me she said the stylist asked her. She thought he had a crush on me. (I of course had just assumed he was gay ;)) I think sometimes the fact that we keep things to ourselves makes people curious so in my case when they got the chance to get the inside info they went for it. My friend was so sorry that I wound up feeling bad for her. However, had it been in a workplace I would have been a lot more upset. If it is the case that your co-workers are asking your friend for this info you could ask her to say "Why don't you ask her?"
 

Shadowpup

Cathlete
Does Jen know that you prefer not to share personal details about yourself at work? If she doesn't, she may not be guilty of betrayal at all - just thoughtlessness and naivete about the work environment.

I'd sit down with her and explain what you've learned about gossip in general at work (for her own benefit), and then gently explain that you'd like her to keep personal info about you to non-work hours.

Chances are Jen has been doing this for years, with family and other friends, and simply didn't realize the boundaries.

But I'd guess that if this is a habit, you will not see the gossip stop right away, and you may want to limit what you share with Jen. It will be especially hard for her right at first to change her ways, since possibly one way she is making connections with her new colleagues is through sharing info about you.

Tough problem. Workplace gossip is poison, and yet it is hard to build working relationships without sharing a certain amount of one's personal self. Everyone draws the line differently.
 
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LauraMax

Cathlete
You might have to start editing your conversations & only telling her stuff you don't mind being discussed by others. Gossiping is not a choice, it's a condition. I know this b/c I've been suffering from it my whole life. :eek::D:cool:
 

ImFiddY

Cathlete
I agree with Laura, the person does it without knowing or does it to make herself feel superior. The only way to deal with it is to treat her like a mushroom (keep her in the dark and feed her sh%&)
 

ladysaraii

Cathlete
If its harmless stuff, she probably doesnt realize that it would bother you. I'd mention that it bothers you and ask her to stop. I wouldnt make a huge deal over it to start b/c you might damage a friendship over an innocent mistake.
 

Afreet

Cathlete
I agree with Laura, the person does it without knowing or does it to make herself feel superior. The only way to deal with it is to treat her like a mushroom (keep her in the dark and feed her sh%&)
OMG!! This just about killed me! :D
 

Afreet

Cathlete
Thanks, everyone! This has definitely helped me find some much-needed perspective.

I'm not 100% sure she knows about my personal life/work life boundary, so I will definitely start by making sure she knows about that, in as gentle a way as possible. Then, if it keeps happening, I think I'll go with the "Mushroom Approach" ;).
 

petramom

Cathlete
I was a terrible gossip for most of my life. I did not respect people's boundaries about their personal information because I didn't have any for my own. When I shared info about my friends like you say your friend is now doing, I did it because it made me feel important and special. I once had a friend ask me to not talk about her with a certain other person, and I remember really struggling with that. I wanted to respect her request, but felt compelled to gossip anyway. I just didn't get it. It seemed so harmless to share what I considered trivial information with other people, especially when doing so made me feel good about myself.

I would say something to her, but in a way that you are prepared to have her repeat to the rest of the office. Because she may very well do exactly that.
 

cakebaker

Cathlete
So why did you stop?

I was a terrible gossip for most of my life. I did not respect people's boundaries about their personal information because I didn't have any for my own. When I shared info about my friends like you say your friend is now doing, I did it because it made me feel important and special. I once had a friend ask me to not talk about her with a certain other person, and I remember really struggling with that. I wanted to respect her request, but felt compelled to gossip anyway. I just didn't get it. It seemed so harmless to share what I considered trivial information with other people, especially when doing so made me feel good about myself.

I would say something to her, but in a way that you are prepared to have her repeat to the rest of the office. Because she may very well do exactly that.
Petramom -

What make you stop? Did someone say something to you that hit home, or did you just stop on your own?
 

petramom

Cathlete
Petramom -

What make you stop? Did someone say something to you that hit home, or did you just stop on your own?
I was the subject of gossip myself, in a really hurtful way. It forced me to realize how I'd hurt other people with my own gossip. I wish I could have learned my lesson some other way, but at least I learned it.

ETA: My son said this morning that someone told him a guy in his class was crying. I said "Did you see it?" He said no. I asked if the alleged crier himself had confirmed this info. He said no. This means, I told him, that as far as you are concerned it never happened. Believe half of what you see, none of what you hear. And unless it's some kind of vital information like "your house is on fire" or "the British are coming," don't ever repeat anything you hear.
 
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SirenSongWoman

Cathlete
I think sometimes the fact that we keep things to ourselves makes people curious so in my case when they got the chance to get the inside info they went for it.
Man, this is sooooo true. There were some people at work who were always curious about my private business and deflecting them made them desperate for more stuff. Since I lost the weight, got serious about training, changed my hair, etc. the interest has been downright ridiculous. Funny thing, though... before, the interested parties wouldn't let it go. Now, they try and find out but as soon as I explain I don't bring my business into the workplace, that's the end of the questioning. I know they talk among themselves (i.e., "I KNOW she's seeing somebody NOW...") but they don't bug me about my romantic life anymore. My good friend at work is always like "Girl, they're talking about YOU" Then she'll pantomime the hour glass figure form while saying "It's because of this." ha ha. How odd that when I was pudgy people felt it was okay to dig into my business like dogs in dirt but but losing weight finally shut them up. If I'd known all I had to do was lose weight to get some respect I'd have gotten started years ago!

What concerns me about your blabbermouth "friend" isn't WHAT she's sharing but with WHOM she's sharing. Supervisors, in particular, don't usually want to know anything about you that's not work-related and when they do it's not good. Worse, a gossipy co-worker is the reason and that reflects badly on you because she didn't get the news about you via telepathy. That can get you labeled "unprofessional", regardless of whether the "news" is juicy or not. At any rate, what's out is already out and unless you've had a behavior-changing heart-to-heart with the offender you may need to make some tough choices. You may need to cut back on how much time you spend around her and what you reveal in her presence. Even though, thus far, the info she's spilled about you doesn't appear to be damaging (other than the fact that it was revealed it) it looks bad. Especially if everyone knows a lot about you but not everyone else, all because everyone else isn't as tight with her as you.

Loose lips sink ships. Don't let office yackety-yack sink yours.
 
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janie1234

Cathlete
I would leave well enough alone and just not share anything else with her. Truth is, . . it sounds like everything basic about you has already been spread through the office like wildfire already. There is no controlling something like that at this point. Lucky for you it doesn't invole how much hate so and so or something else more damaging. I wouldn't even say anything to her because I bet a million bucks she would be the type of person that would take offense at the critique most espeacially if she's gossipy to begin with. I think SOME people like this have some sort of inferiority complex. In this case sounds like she thinks highly of you because so far it just seems like she's a proud friend of someone who works out and she thinks you could help others. Well, . . my $.02 worth. By the way I'm like you I have one of those little stone monkey statues on my desk that represents the motto hear no evil, say no evil, see no evil. :)
 

Afreet

Cathlete
I was never super-gossipy, but I never thought it was especially harmful or bad, and I would listen and occasionally share gossip without a second thought, until I met a friend who NEVER gossiped. She wouldn't listen to it and never shared anything that wasn't good, useful, and true about others.

At first I didn't know what to make of it! But eventually I realized that she still had great conversations with people and never got bogged down with all the hate and nastiness. She got along with everyone and enjoyed the privilege of making up her own mind about people. When I reflected on this, I realized that she was really onto something, and I have made a conscious effort to avoid gossip ever since - and it's amazing how often I've caught myself on the brink of gossiping! It's really hard to avoid.

It's frustrating to be the subject of gossip now, even if it is mostly harmless at the moment. If I do end up speaking to my friend (she's been out of the office for a few days), I will be as tactful and kind as I can - I don't want to hurt her feelings, and I do want to give her the benefit of the doubt. It's been really helpful to read everyone's contributions here. Thank you all so much!
 

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