Everyone has partaken in a gossip session at one point in time. You're human, and you can't help but indulge in tale-spinning and he-said-she-said every once in a while. But as an adult, you know the difference between venting with a friend and perpetuating potentially hurtful rumors. Still, becoming a mom introduces you to mom circles, from your PTA meetings to kids' sports, and chatting can quickly devolve into gossiping. What are we, back in high school? There should be a law of the universe that we leave certain things behind in our teens, and petty hearsay definitely has a spot on that list (so do acne breakouts).
You're in control of your involvement, whether you find yourself the subject of gossip amongst these new friends or you're overhearing disconcerting rumors from your posse. But, honestly, how should you deal with mom gossip? Scary Mommy asked Joanna Fortune, a psychotherapist and author of Why We Play, to weigh in with a few helpful tips to help you navigate your latest social strife.
1. Identify whether these are friends or a clique.
You may feel hurt or angry upon learning that friends are gossiping about you — and who can blame you? But Fortune encourages you to question whether these are true friends worthy of your attention. "There's a difference between a friendship and a clique," she says. "A clique forms around the belief that those in it are superior to those outside it. Cliques are exclusionary and seek control. If you fall foul to a clique and feel empowered to name what is happening, do so with gentle yet firm language and boundaries."
This could mean calmly stating, "I'm aware of what's being said about me in this clique, and it's not necessary or acceptable to me." Their reaction to you setting this boundary will likely tell you whether a friendship is feasible or not.
2. Keep your distance.
If confrontation isn't your style, distancing yourself from the group is a safe bet, too. Try focusing on and getting to know other parents outside of the clique. When you see the Gossip Moms — they're coming for your brand, Gossip Girl — at school or extracurricular activities, keep it short, polite, and positive. Also, aim to arrive on time to school and activities but not too early or late. "This means you have no cause to hang around or to be drawn into group conversations that you don't want to be a part of," Fortune says.
3. Voice your concerns.
Maybe the group isn't gossiping about you, but you feel uncomfortable with some of the conversations you're getting pulled into. You can voice your concern in a couple of ways. First, try mirroring the person(s) taking part by asking a clarifying question or repeating what you heard: "Did you mean that to sound as harsh as I heard it?" Fortune explains: "This names what has happened directly but avoids an accusatory tone by allowing the other person to either double down and own what they have said or to withdraw and clarify, thereby nipping it in the bud before it can become an issue."
4. Set clear boundaries.
When a conversation steers toward gossip, affirm that you're not interested in participating. A simple "this is starting to sound like gossip, so I'm going to excuse myself" should get the point across. You can also exit with a polite goodbye any time the conversation shifts to gossip to "enact your boundary in a physical way," Fortune says. The key: "Be calm and consistent in how you walk away every time the conversation becomes gossip-based."
5. Redirect the conversation.
In a situation where you can't make a quick exit? Steer the conversation away from gossip by bringing up weekend plans or your kids' latest obsessions. If there's one gossiper in particular, you can even use reverse psychology, according to Fortune, saying, "It sounds like you're frustrated and having a bad day. Bad days are the worst, aren't they?"
If you’ve tried all of these steps and the gossipers in question still don't take the hint, it may be time to fake a phone call (hey, sometimes it's necessary!).