Offering Luminaries A Place to Cultivate
Enjoy A Little Peace & Ease
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Who You are Meant to Be....
The book by Doreen Virtue “Don’t Dull Your Sparkle” talks about people being physically addicted to drama. I believed before I read the book that the people always gossiping and causing havoc were making a conscious choice. Now I am starting to see this might not be the case. Rather they are using gossip as a substitute to feel better or worthy, even if short lived.
Stepping back and looking at some of the people I thought were mean girls, or I labeled as unfeeling or cruel I now see the toxicity they offered the workplace was never about me personally. Rather their need to feel better using drama and gossip stories as their drug of choice.
This might at first blush sound overly dramatic. How can someone be as addicted to drama as someone might be to tobacco or cocaine? Yet, if it is true that the same pleasure centres are activated- why not reach for gossip and drama to find a way to sooth the worry and feelings of inadequacy?
In hindsight, when I have judged people and gossiped it has always been out of the need to feel better about myself or to find a way to feel better about a bad situation. Judging and condemning others gave me a sense of security and validation, although short lived.
I recall talking about people at work with my boss, going over story and conversation after story and conversation condemning people for having their thoughts and experiences especially when they were in juxtaposition to what I needed. I usually reached for gossip when they were misbehaving or not doing what I had directed. Somehow gossip provided me the context I needed to feel validated for not having a staff that respected my position or directives.
There were times these gossip conversations were less about gossip and ended in applicable solutions- which I believe even now was time well spent. But usually these conversations ended in feeling justified in my righteousness. It gave me a quick hit of validation from my boss and I felt safe and secure. Most of these conversations happened at the end of the day, and I found on the long drive home the feelings from my swiftly won well-being wore off before I walked through my front door. I was only left with feeling disconnected, worried and guilty.
The next time I spoke with my boss we would pretend the conversation did not happen or better yet skirt the issues altogether, almost as if they had been solved. It became a vicious cycle, with each turning month my subordinates acting out in ways almost unimaginable. Long conversation after long ride home continued with little relief, until I hit a brick wall.
What I found even worse was in using this strategy I began to take more ownership of the problem that never belonged to me in the first place and my working relationship with my supervisor was more about the momentary feel good conversation than time spent on finding real solutions. In fact, it let both of my supervisors off the accountability hook, as I took on more of the responsibility. Perhaps it was a backwards strategy I used to assuage my guilt for gossiping in the first place.
In retrospect, my subordinates were misbehaving and I was left alone trying to fix a situation that was embedded in the institution and my only weapon was gossip. The relief I was seeking was kept at arms reach and the only access to temporary relief was judgement.
My team was locked in this same practice too. They were even bold enough to share their gossip about me- with me. We were all wounding each other, with no relief other than the drug hit of gossip, drama and re-trauma. It worked for the institution, because as long as we were embroiled in this unhealthy experience there was no accountability required by the senior team. It was much easier for them to shake their head and place judgement on this situation from afar.
It has taken me a number of years to really understand this past experience. And I must admit that even now- with all my keen awareness I do see some areas where I continue to practice this activity in hopes that I will feel better— even when I know now it is short lived.
Understanding this habitual coping strategy, especially having lived it, I am much quicker to spot it in others. I now see the internal and external damage it causes. Even more than that I can clearly see the people that are addicted to the drama hit and change my level of engagement as a proactive approach.
These are the gossip people that sit at every level of the workplace. They seemingly take control by helping someone in crisis feel that they matter and are safe, listening to each tale as if it is the drop of drug they need to survive. Using the information and gossip as ammunition against their feelings of inadequacy, hiding behind the knowledge of their co-workers short comings.
If you work in a place that has caught this infection, your first line of defence is recognizing your participation. Identify how prevalent it is and at what levels it exists. As the observer, it won’t take long to notice in your daily interactions who you can trust as a work partner and who is using your feelings of worry and strife as their fuel.
After you have taken your time to identify the people that are addicted to gossip and judgement, take notice of your decisions in the words you use to describe the issue at hand. Simply changing your words from blaming and naming someone as guilty verses identifying what you are needing will start you on the path to healing.
Of course you won’t be able to change the structure overnight or perhaps ever. Yet, the feelings of accomplishment and honour will motivate you to reach for healthy ways to identify and solve challenges at work.
The gossip addict will likely still continue to reach for their hit, yet you will no longer offer them much and they will look for what they need elsewhere. The confidence you will feel in finding some internal power over a situation that is out of control will become the motivation to not step down and play with the people hanging out in the back alley.
The daily commitment to finding balance between discernment and gossip is difficult. But once you get the hang of it— it is well worth the challenge because in the end you are able to take back control of how you feel and from there anything is possible.
All you need to do is take one small step at a time— then look back in a month and notice the difference. You are likely to feel more in control of your time, emotions and stress levels.
Lets share our thoughts—-
I would so appreciate you coming back and leaving me a comment or..... better yet let me know today how gossip impacts your workplace experiences then come back and share again!
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