I never used to talk behind my friend’s backs in primary school until one day I was invited round my friend Linda’s house for tea and her Mum made sausages by cutting them and rolling them before squishing them so they looked like turds.
The next day, I told my other friends that Linda’s Mum made me eat poo. Linda, understandably heard what I had been saying, her Mum called my Mum and I wasn’t allowed to be Linda’s friend any more.
You’d think I’d learn my lesson.
In secondary school, I had two best friends. I would bitch about one to the other and vice versa. Until both of them decided not to be my friend again.
And again, you’d think I’d learn my lesson.
At college, I invited a girl who seemed lonely into my friendship group. I saw her overtaking me in my friends’ affections. She could keep up with their fashions. She could get her belly button pierced with them and she became a steadfast member of the gang.
So what did I do? Bad-mouthed her, of course.
Of course though, it backfired. Suddenly I had no friends at college and I dropped out because who wants to be known as the two-faced-bitch with no friends at 17 years old?
But I never learned my lesson. At my work places, I’d find someone that I disliked for whatever reason and talk about them behind their backs. Sometimes I’d get caught out and sometimes I wouldn’t.
Then I started blogging and naturally, I came across people that I couldn’t stand. And instead of just keeping my dislike to myself, I’d whinge about them at every opportunity.
And I’m not alone. If you can hand on heart say, you’ve never shit-talked someone behind their back, then I’d like to meet you, befriend you and then talk trash about you being a frigging liar, behind your back.
But I’m in my thirties now, and now is a good a time as any to reflect on the exact reasons we all chat shit about people, look at what it says about us and work towards being a little less sneaky.
Girl-on-girl warfare is rife in every establishment, friendship group and industry. The only way to stop it is to look at the reasons we do it and try to eliminate the negative thoughts we have so that they don’t turn into negative talk.
Because, I’m sorry but we will always come across people we don’t like. Whether it’s because of our own insecurities or because they are just absolute ball-bags – we will just not like them. So how can we ensure this dislike never turns into harm?
First of all, we should analyse why we feel a certain way about someone.
They Are Competition
In an educational arena; perhaps they are cleverer, prettier or more favoured by our teachers. In a work environment; perhaps they incompetent, annoying but more likely to gain a promotion. And in a friendship circle; perhaps they are more popular, more entertaining or take up more of your other friends time.
Whatever it is, you pit them against you in a competition of some kind. And when you feel like you’re about to lose that competition – you feel like you gain an edge back by dragging them down.
They Are Easy Conversation
Women love chatting to other women about other women. It’s easy to find a common enemy and then centre your conversation around them. When you’ve run out of chat about your own lives, work, relationships or the latest documentary on Netflix, it’s can be so tempting to turn to conversation that turns on someone you know.
Perhaps it’s easy conversation because a large group of people have taken a dislike to someone else and more-so, it can seem easy if you all feel justified in your shit-talk.
You’re at work with a group of people and one person in that group forever lets the team down, is awful at their job or a complete boss-ball-sucking-brown-noser – what is the group to do except to all talk about that person when they’re not there? Especially if there are no other topics of conversation in common.
Or maybe there’s someone on social media that a large audience of people can’t bear because of their perceived arrogance, annoying voice or whatever – it’s easy to form a community of people who equally feel the same about this other person.
Girls are bitchy. Girls are catty. Girls have sleepovers and deliberately not invite someone and then talk about that person at the gathering.
We see it in movies and TV CONSTANTLY. Girls will be girls.
So it’s easy to reinforce that stereotype by being a girl that trash-talks other girls.
Sometimes, when you’re feeling REALLY SHITTY. You’re completely down on yourself. Everyone seems to be happy and smashing life and you’re not. Well then it’s just a JOY to offload about someone you hate.
You get out all of your sadness and anger and you project it on Becky, the girl in your friendship group who flirts with guys on a night out even though she’s got a boyfriend and posts ridiculous Kardashian-wannabe inspired Snapchat stories.
Is Becky the reason for your shitty feeling? For your sadness and hate? Or is she an easy target for you to pick on to make yourself feel better?
I could go about the reasons to be honest.
And you know, sometimes I really justify it to myself.
They’ve wronged me in the past. Their poor work ethic affects my work atmosphere. Their lack of ability winds me up. Their short-comings affect someone I love. And on and on.
But then something happens.
You get caught out.
The person you’ve been shit-talking about finds out.
They’re devastated. It affects their mental health. It knocks their confidence. It destroys their trust in people. It makes them paranoid. Their anxiety rises. They might be going through shit no one else knows about and this compounds their feelings.
And fuck, you’re a horrible person. You now feel guilty. Anxious. Defensive. Apologetic. Ashamed. Disgusted.
Is it all really worth it? The upset and the shame? Just for a gossip? For an offload? For a whinge?
So let’s get back to being realistic. People ARE going to piss you off. People ARE going to be unlikeable. People ARE going to harm you. You ARE going to think negative, bitter, jealous, competitive and sometimes hateful thoughts about them. We are all human and it is only natural. But what we do with those feelings ARE in our control.
We can’t pretend to ourselves that we will never ever shit-talk someone again. Because sometimes things slip out and you can’t really say never to something that may be ingrained in you like a bad habit.
But we can work on breaking the habit.
Own Up To Your Mistakes
Anything you say behind someone’s back you should be able to own up to, to their face. And if you can’t do that because it’s downright mean – just apologise. Say that you are sorry for talking shit and sorry for hurting them. It goes waaaay further in their recovery than ignoring it, denying it or excusing it.
Make Other Conversations
If you have a mate who is only your mate because the only thing you talk about is other people – it’s time to find a new mate or new topics of conversation. When you’re more mindful about talking shit about people, you’ll realise who you’re only friends with because they are your gossip buds and then you’ll realise it’s time you both change.
Stay In Your Own Lane
Let the competition slide. It’s not healthy. It makes you feel shit. It makes you feel shit about other people and it turns toxic. Work hard on being proud of your own achievements and recognising your own great qualities. Truly happy people don’t need to find negative competition in others.
Feel Superior And Justified, But Quietly
There are going to be people you speak about because you feel superior to them in some way. Maybe they’ve done something awful to someone you love and your idea of revenge is trash-talking them. Perhaps they’ve made a monumental cock-up at work that’s pissed everyone off and it needs to be aired. But maybe, once in a while, just tag yourself out.
You don’t need to be a Bad Mouthing Warrior for your people. You don’t ALWAYS need to be the person that tells other people about themselves for their wrong doings. For you and for them, just be quiet on it once every so often.
If we can, in any small way, implement changes and reduce the amount we talk about others behind their backs, we’ll all feel a lot better for it.
If you’re experiencing a toxic friendship – this post could be for you.
I’d love to hear your experiences of finding out people were bitching about you, or being caught bitching about others! Please come and join in the convo over on Twitter.