What to Talk About Besides People: AKA No Gossip

“The heart speaks what the mouth is full of.” – Luke 6:45. This Bible verse has been intermittently popping into my mind these past couple of months. I purposely set this image as my desktop background so I am constantly reminded of the words I speak. The comments we make on people, things, and ideas may have more significance than we think. Of course, we all know it’s not right to talk behind someone’s back because that person is then usually looked down upon. But we often forget how the one doing the talking should be viewed. Shouldn’t we be concerned that this gossiper knows everything about everyone and feels the need to tell each soul?

I find myself in situations where my friends only talk about people: “Did you know that Karissa skipped class yesterday?” “Omg that girl didn’t even finish her burger and fries…” as they say in hushed voices. I have an odd feeling that I should keep quiet rather than say something when these conversations take place. I feel fire arise inside of me as I want to scream, “Who cares?!” I take blame for gossiping, no doubt, but I’m aware of it now. I can feel myself becoming the listener in conversations as I don’t feel the need to talk about irrelevant events of people who aren’t my business. I almost laugh at the things I am told. I can’t help but say “Cool” in a sarcastic tone.

As I’m in the works of renewing my internal and external thoughts, I’ve listed 3 steps to stop gossiping and 5 alternatives to gossip.

1.     Catch yourself in the act.

Start realizing when names come out of your mouth or of those around you.

2.     Ask yourself: Is this benefitting anyone?

If all you’re telling is a story of someone else, ask yourself why you’re telling it. Do their actions play a vital role on everyone? Probably not.

3.     Change the subject.

If you constantly spend time talking behind others’ backs, you probably don’t know the deepest parts of the people you’re with. Engage in conversation about them. My new favorite question I heard at a faith-based conference: You were born, and then what?

Now that you’re aware of this pointless prattle, let’s see just a number of other things we could talk about!

1.     Animals.

In college, it’s easy to talk about pets. We all miss our furry friends back home, making conversation into an hour of “look how cute he is!” on everyone’s phones. No pet, no problem- I know you’ve stalked Cute Emergency on Twitter. Watch the faces around you light up with bliss as these cuddly creatures take over.

2.     Entertainment.

The Olympics were the current chit-chat; start a conversation about your favorite winter sport or something crazy you’ve seen so far. This is an opportunity to learn more about the other person as they discuss their favorite people or events in the Olympics.

3.     Music.

In relation to talking about your favorite athletes, try discussing your go-to musical artists. Begin talking about a song that’s stuck in your head or your newest find on Spotify. This opens the door to chill bonding sessions if you find you both have similar music taste.

4.     The future.

As scary as it sounds, the future is not only a conversation starter, but also a way to get your paths straight. Talking about plans for the next year or two or even goals within the next 10 years is a sly way to get advice. The person you’re talking to might be able to relate to your future plans, helping with your decision-making. Talk about future occupation, family, travel, and so much more.

5.     Food.

Let’s face it, if you’re with a group of people, there will be some sort of snack or meal. If there’s nothing interesting or weird about the food you’re eating, talk about foods you’d want to try. For example: I want to try 10 exotic fruits (that have crazy names) within my lifetime. Boom - conversation started.

This article isn’t only to educate others on the importance of our words, but also for myself. I have learned how to stop gossip in its tracks and change the topic to uplifting (somewhat), meaningful discussion. My brother’s tattoo of “speak life” is something I remind myself of every day. I want that reminder to speak words that give life and build others up.

Just remember, “People are probably not happy with their lives if they’re busy discussing yours.” – Anonymous. It’s really quite sad how we become so bored with our own lives that our adrenaline comes from the talk about those not around. Be the bigger person and find something more meaningful to talk about.