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2. Emotional intelligence stops gossip

Written by Rachel Green. Director, The Emotional Intelligence Institute.

When people lack emotional intelligence at work various problems occur. These can include negative gossip, backstabbing, withholding of information, silent withdrawal, bullying and more.

Backstabbing & gossip are driven by emotions

Relationships between people at work can be harmed by backstabbing and the spread of negative or malicious gossip.

Yet backstabbing, rumours and indirect criticism are common in some workplaces. Such behaviours undermine the person they target.

They also cause conflict, disrupt productivity and lower morale.

This article will look at the application of emotional intelligence to help prevent gossip and backstabbing at work. Emotional intellignce is very important because gossip is driven by emotions, and so is backstabbing.

Emotional intelligence & gossip tip 1: Know how you feel

Backstabbing arises because of our feelings. We may feel hurt, resentful, powerless, thwarted, indignant or scared. It is feelings such as these that can drive us to gossip and backstabbing as a way of getting our own back.

Or we do it because we feel bad about ourselves and want to feel better.

Awareness of our feelings is the first level of emotional intelligence on the Genos emotional intelligence model. When we are unaware of how we feel we may say or do things that are hurtful, mean or cruel as a way of retaliating against people who have left us feeling hurt.

If we know how we feel we can choose a more emotionally intelligent way to respond.

Develop your emotional intelligence now by becoming more aware of when you feel hurt.

Emotional intelligence & gossip tip 2: Express feelings clearly

Expressing our feelings clearly and kindly can reduce our need to seek revenge on people, or to act in a malicious way towards them. The ability to express our feelings is the second competency of emotional intelligence on the Genos emotional intelligence model.

For example, if you know you feel hurt by someone, you might:

  • Allow the feeling to ease and then go and talk kindly to the person involved.
  • Tell him or her that you feel hurt.
  • Open a discussion about what happened.

You don't need to be unkind in the process nor to lay blame. This is not emotionally intelligent. Instead, be informative without accusation or judgement and be open to their side of things. Once you've done this, you've cleared the air and helped to repair your relationship, so you won't need to spread gossip or backstab as a form of revenge.

Emotional intelligence & gossip tip 3: Stop it

When people start to spread negative gossip and want to pass it onto you, stop it immediately. This is emotionally intelligent.

A simple statement such as, "Please don't tell me, tell the person concerned" sends a clear message to the person that you are not interested in gossiping. It is also constructive as it makes it clear what should be done.

You do not have to listen to gossip. It is important that you are clear about this before someone even approaches you with some criticism or juicy bits about someone else. Make a decision now. Will you or will you not listen to gossip?

Part of the subset of emotional intelligence skills is being able to make emotionally intelligent decisions.

If you've made a clear decision in advance of any gossip arriving it is easier to be on the look-out for it and stop it. If we all put a stop to gossip when it is spread to us, gossip would have nowhere to go.

  • Do you gossip in any way?
  • Do you speak out against gossip?
  • Do you listen to gossip without saying anything and thus imply approval?

By developing your emotional intelligence even further you can find the courage to reject gossip.

Emotional intelligence & gossip tip 4: Don't pass it on

If you do hear gossip don't pass it on.

There are many ways gossip can be forwarded. One is by telling the person implicated in the gossip that people are gossiping about them. This is still gossip and can hurt the person and increase conflict.

It happened to me recently. Someone sent me an email telling me what "some" people said about me a couple of years ago. I knew nothing of this at the time and was surprised to read of it. Was this person gossiping? Yes. He was kind enough to say he knew it wasn't true but he was still gossiping. What emotion do you think led him to send this email?

Another way of backstabbing and gossiping is to repeat what someone else has said and make it your own, e.g. "Did you know Daniel is sleeping with Linda?", or "May-Lee never does as many hours as we do and is always going home early". This is not emotionally intelligent.

Repeating what you've been told as if it is truth, is gossip. Gossip is seldom fact, it is usually a one-sided and often incomplete and distorted interpretation of an event.

Backstabbing is usually based on only part of a story not the full story.

Don't pass on ignorance, or you too will be ignorant. This is not emotionally intelligent either. Emotional intelligence involves high levels of self-awareness and emotional self-management.

Emotional intelligence & gossip tip 5: Know they have a problem

If you hear that someone is spreading gossip about you keep your cool, don't take it personally. It says far more about the problems that the other person has than it does about you.

Feel sorry for them.

  • They may be frightened to tell you to your face. How sad is that?
  • They may be very unhappy. That's sad too.
  • They may feel powerless and have no sense of control over their lives. That's sad too.

If you feel sorry for people who spread gossip, you will be less likely to get upset by it.

Make sure that you don't give your power or happiness away to people who gossip.

  • Develop your emotional intelligence and you won't need to hook into other people's gossip.
  • Develop your emotional intelligence and you won't need to spread gossip.
  • Develop your emotional intelligence and you'll be able to help others manage other emotions better and resist the need to gossip as well.

Emotional intelligence can help produce harmony in the workplace.

Develop even more skills in dealing with difficult people at work

There is so much that you can do to develop the emotional intelligence across your organisation. The EI Institute has a number of options to help you:
  1. There is a series of advanced emotional intelligence master-classes.
  2. There are high energy, interactive and practical emotional intelligence workshops. Of particular value to your customer service staff is the one "How to keep your cool with difficult people".
  3. There is a dynamic keynote speech "A duck's back: Keeping cool with negativity" which will get your event buzzing and help people become more tolerant.
  4. There is 1-1 emotional intelligence coaching for managers and executives.
  5. There are CDs, DVDs and books particularly the unique and practical 2 CD set, "How to deal with difficult people WITHOUT GETTING UPSET". Bulk discounts are available for this so all your employees or team members may have their own copy.

For more details or to make a booking e-mail us now or pick up the phone and call us.

Thanks to istockphoto.com for the photo.