When does talking about somebody else cease to be necessary or helpful and become gossip?
In our community, vetting is an essential part of our community safety. If we don’t share some relevant information with each other, that can potentially put others at risk for being harmed or manipulated. But where do we draw the line? I think there are some criteria to consider.
- Would the lack of this information potentially cause harm or distress to the person you’re talking to?
- Are they directly involved in the situation that’s being discussed? Are you directly involved?
- Are they trying to ascertain someone’s safety or trustworthiness, or what the person’s community reputation is, and you have firsthand or other reliable knowledge that would help them make a more accurate decision?
- Is the purpose of the conversation to help someone be informed about things that could directly affect them, or is the goal to unfairly discredit or belittle someone for the speaker’s own personal agenda?
- Is the person upset because someone else has harmed or distressed them, and they are trying to process what happened by talking to a trusted friend?
I think the answers to these questions aren’t always going to be black and white, but I think they may be a good place to start. I think motive and relevance has a lot to do with what makes something gossip versus necessary communication, but it’s sometimes very difficult to judge these motives in others or even in ourselves.
Human communication is pretty screwed up at the best of times. Add in BDSM and LGBTQ issues, mental health complications, emotional responses, past abuse and triggers, and it gets really hard to navigate communication issues.
I think what’s important is to actively try to make our communication methods as helpful and ethical as possible. But, it’s important to note that we are almost certain to disagree with others on what is helpful and ethical and what is not. I think giving each other the benefit of the doubt, while also standing up for ourselves and others when needed, is important too.
I welcome respectful dialogue on this. I’m trying to improve my own communication methods and this topic is something I’d like to be better educated on. What do you think makes something unhelpful and gossip? What kind of shared information is ethical and necessary given the risks and intensity of BDSM involvement?