“Did you hear what Joe said about Fran? Can you believe it?”
“I’m furious at her! I feel like she did this on purpose.”
“I can’t figure out what to do next, I’m scared I’m going to make a mistake.”
Today we explore what it means to be impeccable with your word, and why it is so important to know and honor the difference between gossiping, venting, and processing.
A little bit about me: I’ve been nesting into my new home, a 20-foot Airstream trailer. I’m currently camped in a state park outside of Woodstock, NY, surrounded by dense forest, bright sky, and stretches of soothing rain. Now that I’ve unpacked, done laundry, set up numerous altars, and figured out how to navigate mobile living, I’m sitting down to write full-time for the next two months. (Check out my Instagram for more HeatherAsh travel stories, #heatherashtravels.)
Okay, now onward to defining gossiping, venting, and processing, and how to navigate each so your communication is clear, effective, and loving.
First, what does it mean to be impeccable with your word, and why do you want to strive towards impeccability in your speech and actions? In The Four Agreements, don Miguel Ruiz defines being impeccable as “not going against yourself.” Being impeccable means you are aware of the huge impact your words have not only on your energy, but on your life.
Your words, both spoken and unspoken, help shape your reality. When your internal dialogue is judgmental, fearful, or bitter you’ll see the world as a hostile, unsupportive place where you are not seen or loved. When your internal dialogue is loving, respectful, and kind you’ll see the world as conspiring to support and guide you, when even challenges become gifts.
Imagine if you had a huge pile of gold coins, and every word you thought or said either added a gold coin or removed a gold coin from your stash. Then it would be easy to learn about the impact of your words, as it would be obvious from the number of coins that remained at the end of each day.
Here are some ways that you can stop diminishing and start growing your own inner gold.
Gossip feels good when we are doing it, kind of like sugar or heroin. You get a good buzz for a little bit, but then you crash, and to feel better about yourself you need more. Gossip is like a drug, and it can be hard to break. How do you know if you are gossiping? Here are some signs:
You are gossiping when you are:
- Talking negatively about someone to another person, with no intention to speak directly to the person you are talking about.
- Saying negative things (to yourself or another person) about someone else in order to feel better about yourself or avoid what is actually going on for you.
- Trying to solicit someone to agree with your story so you feel validated.
- Sharing a story about yourself or another person in order to create drama or upset.
Now, there is a difference between sharing your experience vs gossiping. “I feel really intimidated by Nancy, and I’m not sure why.” vs “Nancy doesn’t like me and that she is not a kind person; here is what she did…”
If you’ve ever used a pressure cooker, you know it has a little valve on the top that lets off steam. A pressure cooker cooks things like beans quickly, but if you don’t have a vent the pressure inside the pot will build up until it literally explodes. (Not pretty!) In humans there are two ways we vent. The explosion vent happens when we are not talking or dealing with something and it comes out suddenly and creates a mess (like when you scream at your kid or partner for a minor infraction or burst into tears at a small incident.) You may feel better for a moment because you’ve released the pressure, but often you then have a lot of clean up to do.
The second kind of venting is a conscious choice to create more space inside of you so you can address the underlying issue. In this case you would say to a friend, “Can I vent for a minute?” Then you would open your mouth and watch what comes out. This type of venting is about not censoring yourself while you pay close attention to your words and feelings as you speak. The act of venting, when you are simply witnessed by another, allows you to also witness yourself and your deeper feelings or story.
Venting is for emergencies when the pressure has built up strongly; processing is the maintenance that helps keep the intensity of your inner world low. To review: Gossip is when you create a triangle to talk about someone with a third (or fourth or fifth) person. When you process you are creating a temporary triangle so you can get clear on what is going on for you with the outside person before you talk to them directly.
Again, we make our actions conscious when we name what we are doing. “Fred, can I process with you something I’m struggling with around Meredith?” Fred then has the choice to say “yes” or “no.” If he says yes then I would share what is going on in my relationship and experience with Meredith, while closely witnessing my own words. Then I would close the triangle by talking to Meredith directly.
I’ve watched many people (myself included) say that they are processing but then never have the direct conversation that is needed. So my support to all of us: Be brave. Process well by talking or journaling or meditating on the issue, but then make sure to bring your vulnerability and experience to the person DIRECTLY. Do your best to not blame or shame them (or yourself) but be honest with where you are and what you need, or what you are learning. Be sure to also listen to their experience. Let go of the outcome; be willing to learn as you go along.
Feel free to share any specific questions or thoughts around being impeccable below. And may your words grow your pile of inner gold until you shine like the sun.
Listen to my Gossiping, Venting, or Processing podcast!