In an address at the Vatican recently, Pope Francis spoke out strongly against what he called the “terrorism of gossip”. The Pope compared talking negatively about others to “tossing a gossip bomb and walking away.” He stated that gossiping distances communities and does not bring us together. So despite the latest research that shows that gossip may be a “natural process” of social animals, it may not jibe with our highest values and aspirations. Here are 5 basic rules that could convert the “bombs of gossip” into the bricks that can build a stronger community and will help you to truly “Love your Neighbor” as yourself.

1. Seek Help In Your Goal To Go “Gossip Free”

• Pope Francis taught that St. James in the Bible taught that learning to control one’s tongue “is the most difficult virtue, human and spiritual virtue that is hardest to acquire.”
• Saint James wrote that the “person who does not sin with his words has reached perfection.”
• Share your goal to “go gossip free” with your friends, family and others.
• By sharing your goal to no longer terrorize others with your words, you may build trust with others around you.
• Your goal may also help others to throw fewer “gossip bombs” as well.
• By sharing your goals, you begin to decrease the herd mentality of gossiping.
• SOLUTION- Enroll others to go Gossip Free by saying something like, “I’m trying to find a way to get into Heaven and I’ve found that ‘talking negatively’ about others is a major vice I have. Will you help me to be more positive and gossip less?”

2. Humanize Your Neighbor Don’t Demonize Them

• The Pope suggested that we see the people we’re throwing the gossip bombs at as “Brothers and Sisters”.
• We are supposed to love our neighbor, not destroy them.
• Remember that behind every story you share, or gossip about, is a real human being, with basic fears, concerns, and needs.
• Research shows that as we take the place of others, we’re less likely to hurt them.
• We talk directly to people we see as humans and we talk about people that we see as “demons”. Gossip is a sign that you’ve demonized the other.
• Draw a bigger circle of friends by humanizing more people.
• Humanizing decreases the chances of excluding, pulling rank, spreading rumors and harming others.
• SOLUTION- A fast way to humanize another is to pause before spreading the gossip and think about how you would feel if people were saying the same thing about you.

3. Lift Your Neighbor Like You Lift Yourself

• Just as you always do with your own weakness, share successes of others instead of their secrets.
• Who do you trust more… people who share successes of others or people who share the secrets of others?
• Enhance your sense of worth by lifting others, not lowering them. Nobody trusts people that have to lower others to feel better about themselves.
• Sharing the good things about others increases the likelihood that you may see and eventually learn from them as well.
• People trust others who won’t participate in the negative talk.
• Not participating in the gossip may turn others off at first, but in the end we trust positive people more.
• By putting out more positive ideas about another person into the conversation, you may also be able to help others to see the good.
• It really is an act of love, not an act of war.
• SOLUTION- “I know she can sometimes get on your nerves at times but I have found she’s very loyal to her closest friends.”

4. Eliminate The Middle Man/Woman

• Take your grievances to the source of the problem, instead of the middleman.
• Sometimes you really do have grievances and problems with other people, but instead of passive-agressively using gossip to air the grievance, go to the person that has offended you.
• Usually they won’t see the situation the same way you do. So by going directly to the source of your problem, you’ll probably improve understanding.
• Share your concerns without accusing them. Share your feelings, your content and what you would have liked to have had happen.
• Assume there is much that you misinterpreted and don’t know about the situation.
• Remember that your actions will speak much louder than anything you have to say. It will also keep you from having a problem with one person to having a problem with many more people.
• SOLUTION- Take the role of being a social/relationship coach for the person that has offended you, instead of a social roach who only hides whenever the lights are turned on.

5. Find Lasting Peace In Principles…Not People

• Remember that our greatest peace comes from aligning our actions to our highest principles.
• So instead of trying to get closer to others by sharing secrets, get closer by being a better, more real person.
• Instead of trying to gain control over others by banishing them from friend circles, gain control in your life by living principles more effectively.
o Assume ignorance, not ill intent. Create closeness over distancing. Learn to love your neighbor instead of loving dissension.
o Enlighten relationships and conversations as a social coach rather than hiding in the darkness of gossip as an elusive social roach.