Aleteia

How to make sure small talk doesn’t turn into gossip

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Light conversations can be good or bad … depending on how self-aware you are.

Small talk can be both good and bad. It can be good, because talking with each other is vital. It can be bad, because curiosity — or even worse, calumny and slander — irreversibly result in considerable harm. This is not to say we should stop talking altogether. Sure, our words won’t cause any harm if we stop talking to people … but where would love be in that? 

Learning how to hold your tongue

Some silences or the refusal to communicate can be worse than an insult. Silence can be filled with such selfishness, violence, or resentments that it can kill. “The mouth speaks what the heart is full of” (Lk 6:45). If our heart is full of goodness, peace, and is attentive to others, always ready to forgive, to see a beam in our own eye rather than a straw in that of our neighbor, we will naturally say only good things of others. And if we are tormented by jealousy, if we constantly judge our neighbor, if we dwell on our resentments, if we want to constantly brag about ourselves, we will spread rumor and slander each chance we get. So, it is our hearts that need to be transformed.

As soon as we notice that we speak harshly, malevolently, or simply using callous irony, let us ask the Holy Spirit to help us see why our tongue seems to have a mind of its own. Is it because we’re jealous? Is it because we wish to trash others out of lack of self-esteem? Is it because we were unable to forgive some insult from long ago? Or is it because, we are avoiding real issues in telling lies? Is it out of concern that we are badly perceived? Or could it be simply because we like to brag?

The art of listening

Good small talk presupposes that we know how to listen, because if you don’t, we cannot find the right words to relate to others. They say that the reason the Creator has given us two ears and one mouth is so we would listen twice as much as we speak.  More importantly, we should listen as much with our hearts as with our ears – this is the whole difference between hearing and listening. One involves a passive reception of information, the other a careful analysis of what is being said. 

… and the art of preserving silence

Good small talk presupposes that we love silence. Not the silence due to boredom, and even less so because we sulk or show our contempt, but the silence that brings us together with The One who is the Word. Plunging into this kind of silence from time to time in the course of conversation is the best way to enjoy the small talk and avoid its dangers.

Christine Ponsard 

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