Gossip, Experience and Getting Things Done

I have a very important rule: I make up on my mind about someone based on my experience with them, not on gossip. It’s served me well over the years, and lately even more so.

I’m not an “important” person, but working at Patheos is a unique thing. I sometimes get information I wouldn’t have otherwise and I have good reasons to contact important people from time to time. Which is awesome. I also sometimes get unsolicited gossip, which is annoying. I don’t pay attention to gossip, particularly the malicious and slanderous kind. Trust me, if you want to trash someone, I’m the least satisfying person you could spill the beans to. I generally feel the person doing the trashing is a far less desirable an acquaintance than the person they are “throwing under the bus”. When you trash someone around me my experience of you becomes negative. In my mind, you just got filed under “Indiscreet Possibly Malicious Gossip”.

I put a lot of stock into my experience of people. I have discovered that the amount of enmity generated by gossips is often in direct relation to the targets ability to get things done. I’ve mentioned before on the blog that I am a big fan of Pagans Who Get Stuff Done. It’s a great concept and I like the idea this group features and rewards Pagans who actually accomplish tangible things. It’s actually a huge accomplishment to run a successful Pagan religious group, festival or workshop, simply because we really are worse than herding cats. I have massive amounts of respect for Pagans who manage to get things done.

There have been many times, in many different situations, that I have been immediately warned that someone was difficult and should be avoided. Once or twice the warnings have proven true, but generally I find through my own interactions with, and observations of, the person in question is that they get things done, have certain standards and expect other people to have similar standards of excellence. It’s not unusual for me to discover that I get along well with this “difficult person” quite well.

With so many oathbound and secret societies, and so many religious groups operating “under the radar”, sometimes a friendly warning or caution is necessary. I’ve certainly had a couple of those prove true recently, and not only did I find with my own experience that the warning was valid, but my estimation of the person who warned me increased for the discreet, non-malicious way they conveyed their concern.

I’m not a fan of gossip or people who expect me to be influenced by gossip. Not so long ago I had an encounter with someone that I had no real knowledge of and no real information about from mutual acquaintances. I had formed no opinion of this person yet. Somehow, the person must have assumed I had heard malicious gossip or that based on my associations I had an ill opinion of them. That is the only reason I can think of for receiving a rude, unprofessional, arrogant and too-late response to my well-intentioned, respectful and friendly inquiry and offer of assistance. It was only after I had this experience with the person that my acquaintances confirmed they had often had the same experience with the person. What a different impression, and what a better witness to the person’s character, I would have had if the person had responded to me in the spirit in which they had been contacted?

I think too often we expect the worst of other Pagans, are too ready to spread gossip and are too eager to “armchair quarterback”  other Pagans efforts to get things done. I think expecting the best, relying on your own experience rather than gossip and supporting Pagans who are actually getting things accomplished is a pretty good plan of action. It’s always worked for me, but then rumor has it, I’m a difficult person to deal with….

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  • Peter Dybing

    Your focus on “Pagans who get stuff done” is on the money. We as a group do seem to spend an inordinate amount of time discussing what to do vs. the time we spending on the actual work.

    As for gossip, my reaction is to adopt a blank look and let it go in one ear and out the other and then focus on compassion for the person who feels the need to gossip. It has been my experience that these people are struggling with issues that lead them to this behavior. As a result, it is easy to disregard their content, if I have compassion for their motivation.

  • I have found that most criticisms revolve around how people get things done and what others see as inequality. Everyone always does more work than their coworker, always. It’s not a true statement, but that’s how people feel, even those who shirk their duties feel that they are doing as much as they should or even more than is reasonable for the money they are paid. No matter how much we may reason our way through life, our feelings will always be more important. Even when a feeling has no foundation in fact, it’s a feeling and it’s your feeling and no one can tell you how to feel. People are at their most obstinate when feelings come into play.

    Three people doing the same job will do that job three different ways. Some people will jump feet first into a job and figure things out as they go; another may sit down and plan their best course of action before starting; a third may need to organize and compartmentalize their actions. Each person may see the other’s way of doing things a complete waste of time and judge them for it, thinking that somehow they are getting away with less work because they don’t put forth the same kind of effort as others.

    In the end, gossip arises from resentment and jealousy. It is an emotional response, a gut reaction. Only by being self-aware can we modify our actions and feelings in accordance to the actions and feelings of others. Maybe it’s only that I am an empath and so am intimately aware of how others feel, but we have to be willing to see things from both sides of the equation. There’s no defense against gossip but to ignore it. That’s really the best way to show the gossipers that their habit is socially unacceptable.