A crucial aspect of us maturing, both individually and in our adult relationships, is the evolution of our conversations. In order for us to make forward progress, mentally, the information that we’re consuming must increase in depth and substance.
Without making a conscious effort, this can be tricky. These kinds of conversations can sometimes be tedious, confusing, tiring… boring even. This is why shallow thoughts, which most often manifest in the form of gossip, are so much easier to circulate and absorb.
A quote, most commonly attributed to Eleanor Roosevelt, says “Great minds discuss ideas; Average minds discuss events; Small minds discuss people.” I can’t say that I agree that only small minds discuss people, because if that were true, we’d all technically be small-minded. But I don’t think it’s unfair to say that discussions about people, without broadening the scope, are the most superficial conversations we have.
Gossip can be light, it can be funny and it’s almost always entertaining. We’re all guilty of it and understandably so, as its appeal is obvious—it’s a means of escape. But if we’re honest with ourselves, it’s rarely ever productive and all too often damaging.
In today’s world of social media, sub tweets, gossip blogs and reality television, we’re grossly desensitized to oversharing. As a result, we often become offenders of this ourselves. Even worse, it’s become common practice to publicly discuss the private lives of other people—even if we only know of them and their situations through Twitter and Instagram. Our generation’s favorite pastime, it seems, is openly picking apart and having opinions (generally negative) on things that have nothing to do with us.
As far as I can tell, this has spilled over into our personal lives and the ways in which we interact with one another, even offline. Whether in our various group chats or in person, tea spilling and pettiness are trends that our generation has collectively and warmly decided to embrace.
Black Women Writers Club. Pictured: Toni Morrison, Alice Walker, Ntozake Shange, June Jordan, Lori Sharpe and Audrey Edwards.
In light of this, I’d like to offer these three suggestions to elevating your conversations:
1) Don’t bond over gossiping.
Gossiping among close friends is one thing. Gossiping with people you’ve recently met and don’t know that well is a different story and it should be avoided. This is not the foundation that friendships, especially as adults, should be built on.
2) Mind your business as best you can.
Look, venting is very often necessary. And your drama is your drama. Should you try not air your dirty laundry out everywhere? Yes. But if you’re going to, the least you could do is draw the line there, and not discuss the private lives of other people. We most often find ourselves doing this when we don’t like someone but, trust me, you don’t need the toxicity or the bad karma that comes with this.
3) Organize regular gatherings where the goal is deep, positive conversation.
Last year, a friend and I formed a book club. Our goal, in addition to encouraging our friends to read more, was to create a space where young women could get together and express themselves freely. Discussions started off with the book but the women could take it wherever they wanted. The only rule: no discussing people. What resulted, in that first meeting, was seven hours of genuine, intelligent, heartfelt conversation. A bond, felt by everyone in attendance, was created with no aftertaste of weirdness or negativity.
Eradicating gossip from our everyday lives is neither possible nor necessary. Some of my favorite convos start off with “Girrllll, did I tell you what happened??” I’m simply advocating for turning the pettiness down a few notches, not being hurtful, and making a conscious effort to discuss topics that will force you to grow – emotionally and intellectually.
Images: PhotoGriot, BUST