ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

He Said, She Said – The Perils of Gossip

Updated on August 23, 2011


I’ve never been one to participate in gossip. It doesn’t matter where you are on the chain of information—whether you are the first or second link, a link somewhere in the middle, or a link closer to the bottom—it’s not first-hand knowledge, half of the information is bound to be untruthful or will end up being untruthful, and the information originated from an untrustworthy friend who has fooled someone into believing that they are trustworthy.

When hearing people gossip, I’m often reminded of an elementary school teacher who had my class participate in a game called telephone. The entire class sat in a circle, and, one by one, each classmate whispered the same sentence into the ear of the next classmate. Each classmate had one opportunity to use the “operator” if what was whispered couldn’t be heard. When the whispered sentence reached the last classmate, he or she stood up and announced what it was they had heard.

Of course, I have no recollection of exactly what the sentence was way back then, but I do remember that the entire class burst out in laughter because the sentence made absolutely no sense by the time it went around the circle.

After the laughter and giggles died down, my teacher engaged us in serious conversation about what happens when people talk about other people to other people. This left a lasting impression on me. I was only seven years old.

While attending college, one of my professors engaged my class in a similar activity. However, it was based on a two-minute story, and the last person to hear the story would pull the next person outside and relay the story to them. This particular exercise went through only four people. The content was a bit, well, a lot more adult, and by the time the story reached its last destination, everything was skewed beyond belief, including mention of an extra-marital affair which did not happen in the original storyline.

I wonder how lucky I am to have learned this lesson twice, once at seven and again as a refresher course in college? I don’t believe that most people have ever participated in something like this, as if they had, I don’t think there would be such a thing as gossip.

Maybe this is wishful thinking on my part…

Don't Tell Anyone I Told You, But...



In order to be an active participant in gossip, people usually have to say something that they were told not to tell, something they were told in confidence, something that they have sworn to secrecy. Sometimes this secrecy is implied based upon friendship, and it is understood due to the sensitive nature of any particular conversation. Other times it is necessary to make known that there should be no mention of the conversation under any circumstances.

It doesn’t matter what the circumstances, if you are asked not to tell, you simply don’t tell. I’m not referring to criminal activity, of course. I’m referring to an everyday discussion that occurs with a family member, a friend or even a coworker.

I have always considered myself a trustworthy person—something that I take pride in. Since I am not one to begin with, “Don’t tell anyone I told you, but…”, I happen to be the recipient of confidential information from time to time. When someone asks me not to discuss something with someone else, I remain quiet. Sometimes this is difficult to do, but I manage. The only person I ever tell everything to is my husband, and this is understood by whoever swears me to secrecy.

I also do not divulge information to others of a sensitive nature because of the old, “Well, you didn’t tell me that I couldn’t tell anyone!”

It seems that this happens quite often, and I really don’t understand why. It’s as if there needs to be a disclaimer at the beginning of conversation between friends just to ensure that a conversation between two people doesn’t become the Nightly News. A lot of times, common sense, friendship, and, well, just doing the right thing means that you shouldn’t tell a friend what your other friend told you.

Why Didn’t You Tell Me?

On the flip side, it seems that not telling could lead to trouble, too.

“Why didn’t you tell me?”

“Well, I was asked not to say anything, that’s why.”

(Again, I’m not referring to criminal activity, just a discussion that you might encounter on any given day, and not something that is considered to be: Secrets, secrets are no fun; secrets, secrets hurts someone.)

The person who asks, “Why didn’t you tell me?” and receives the answer, “Because I was told not to say anything,” should probably be grateful for knowing someone whom they can trust.

Instead of holding a grudge against someone who didn’t pass on something that they were asked not to tell, it might do you good to realize that whatever you say to them is likely to stay with them rather than going through the channels of gossip. This would be true whether you tell them something in the strictest of confidence or throughout the course of normal, daily chatter.

But this is how I would see it.

I couldn’t imagine being trusted by anyone if I were to begin a conversation by saying, “Don’t tell anyone I told you, but…”

I would also have a hard time trusting anyone who would say that to me.

I also understand that when you participate in conversation with someone that was promised not to be repeated, it doesn't just lead to gossip, but it has already become the gossip.


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • MartieCoetser profile image

      Martie Coetser 

      6 years ago from South Africa

      Deni, how could I have missed this one?

      What an interesting method of proving to young children what happens when a roomer (actually any news, good or bad) is sent from one person to another. My mother had taught us that the best one can do about this, is to behave in such a way that people just don't find anything bad to say about you. I've voted this up, well-written and informative.

    • Deni Edwards profile imageAUTHOR

      Deni Edwards 

      7 years ago from california

      Thank you, MsDora!

      I appreciate you reading and making your comment!

    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Weithers 

      7 years ago from The Caribbean

      Good points. Especially about the flip side. Not telling you what I know could mean not telling anyone what I know about you. Thanks!


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)