Saturday, January 13, 2007

Gossip & Other Deadly Room-mate Sins

There is no way around it: gossip is deadly. And yet, there is something satisfyingly juicy about talking about another person behind their back. Whether it’s a bit of scandalous information you are dying to share or a smidgen of malicious character assassination, gossip eventually leaves a bad taste in your own mouth and, worst of all, it destroys the well-being and harmony in any shared home.
We gossip about our room-mates because their behaviour irritates us or makes us unhappy or uncomfortable. Is one of your room-mates not doing their share of the household duties? Are they being lazy, messy or just plain forgetful? We complain about a room-mate, in part, to get the irritation off our chests, but we also want the behaviour to go away.
Of course, this kind of talk is totally misplaced. Talking to room-mate Mary is not going to solve our problem with room-mate Harry. Sometimes what we are hoping is that Mary will side with us in the condemnation of Harry – making us right. And, unfortunately, there is nothing quite as satisfying about being smugly right.
A couple living in our house once came to a meeting and asked that people not talk about them behind their back. While malicious gossip is unpleasant, it’s pretty unreasonable to think that you can stop people from ever talking about you. It’s just one of those things that people do. This kind of gossip is known to sociologists as social grooming and is seen as a way that people bond and reinforce social structures, family links, and build relationships. Social grooming is also used as a form of reconciliation and a means of conflict resolution in some species.
However, back-stabbing gossip is in a different category and will affect the atmosphere in the house whether we know that it is happening or not. The information seems to be absorbed subconsciously and when there is unpleasant gossip it tends to escalate the problems resulting in even more upsets and more incidents of anger and hostility. The energy in the home becomes cool and distant and people feel disconnected.
If we really want to solve the situation, it is essential that we be honest and talk directly to the person who can solve the problem – in other words have a chat with Harry about Harry’s behaviour. Keeping this house rule will avoid many unpleasant feelings in the house and ensure a caring environment for everyone.

The only reason to talk to Mary is if she can help you find a way to speak to Harry in a compassionate and clear way. This is not gossip. This is seeking support. But there is a fine line here as your desire for clarity can easily descend into talking about your room-mates behaviour in a condescending way simply to make yourself look good.
Gossip is particularly deadly when it is used (even unconsciously) as a means to divid people and form cliques within the household. Everyone deserves to feel respected in what is their own home. There is no way around it. If you want to have a conscious home that is the way of living you choose to live, then malicious gossip has got to go. While deliciously tantalizing, rumours and gossip should be avoided if you really wish to have the home of your dreams and enjoy the benefits of a caring and conscious shared home.