Gretchen Rubin posted this cute entry, Six dodges for pretending that you're not gossiping when you really are today.
As a religious Jew, I am supposed to adhere to explicitly and broadly defined rules about avoiding speaking and listening to gossip (לשון הרע "lashon hara").
I *thought* I was doing well at this, until one day (16 years ago) when I was in a restaurant with my husband.
|I was giving him a summary of the upcoming week's activities; including trying to determine if we "had to" invite a certain couple to dinner. I explained that while owed them a return invitation, they would be incompatible with the other couple who was already invited to that dinner.|
We discussed the personalities involved, and agreed that the two couples should be invited for separate weekends. We paid the restaurant bill, and stood up to collect our coats.
As we stood up, we saw that the very couple we were discussing was sitting at the next table. They were definitely within earshot.
Mortified, we greeted them as politely as we could, and slunk out of the restaurant.
While I didn't say anything exactly "bad" about them, I would never have spoken with a detached, analytical, know-it-all tone about their relative personality quirks, to their faces. I would never have specutlated about their relative compatiblity, or who they might enjoy as friends, directly with them.
Upon review (something I have been doing for the past 16 years), we were very lucky. We liked both couples, and didn't "trash" either of them in the discussion.
None of us ever mentioned the incident. The couple who was in the restaurant with us that day, is still close with us. (We've lost touch with the other couple.)
The lesson I learned, however, is always with me. (And no, that lesson isn't to avoid restaurants.)