The most effective way to rid yourself of backbiters -- people who spread malicious gossip about others when they are not present to defend themselves -- is to end your relationship by abruptly cutting off all communication with them. However, this isn’t always practical in work and family situations which may demand a little more discretion.
- Skill level:
Confront the backbiter. This may be necessary if the backbiter has been your best friend since primary school and you feel hurt and betrayed -- telling your former friend how you feel and why you are ending the relationship will help you to resolve your feelings and move on.
Phase out contact gradually. People who engage in malicious gossip about others often do so because they are envious or insecure. If, based on your personal experience of the backbiter, you decide that a confrontation will only exacerbate these feelings of low self-worth and possibly provoke retaliation it might be more diplomatic to end contact gradually. Screen telephone calls, make polite excuses when the backbiter wants to get together socially, or stick to occasional lunches rather than intimate dinners. Limit the number of social invitation you extend, then gradually phase them out altogether.
Cease sharing personal information. The intimate, and even not so intimate details of your life are oxygen to malicious gossips. Even if you have to maintain a semblance of social civility because the backbiter is a family member or colleague, eschew one-on-one meetings and stick to larger social gatherings. Stick to safe subjects like the weather and the price of bread when the backbiter buttonholes you in conversation and ruthlessly and abruptly change the subject, or make your excuses and walk away if he asks nosy questions.
Maintain discretion. Resist the temptation to backbite the backbiter -- or attack him with insect repellent -- regardless of how much he bugs you. Engaging in tit-for-tat gossip only escalates the problem and brings you down to the backbiter’s level.
Seek help or advice from someone in authority if you fall foul of malicious gossip in the workplace that could damage your reputation, endanger your livelihood or hamper your promotional prospects. A little office gossip is inevitable and is usually best ignored, but you are entitled to defend yourself against potentially libelous gossip.
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