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Advice / Succeeding at Work / Work Relationships

8 (Non-Condescending) Ways to Respond to a Co-worker Who Won't Stop Gossiping

people gossiping

There’s always plenty of material for gossip in an office. Everyone has at least one or two co-workers they can’t stand, an over-demanding manager, a project manager who sends midnight emails—or all of the above.

And I think we all know that talking about those people with a sympathetic fellow employee can feel really, really good.

Unfortunately, in the long run, gossiping will only harm your reputation and career. You’ll appear less professional, you’ll lose some of your trustworthiness, and you’ll even make a few enemies (because gossip goes round and round).

So, next time your co-worker tries to trash talk with you, here’s what to say to (politely) shut it down.

1. “Huh. That Doesn’t Sound True.”

Rumors are always going around; this response will work for virtually all of them. By shedding some doubt on the truthfulness of the story, you’ll make it difficult for the gossiper to continue.

You can even follow up with a change in subject, such as, “But you know what is true? We’re officially going to Cancun for the corporate retreat. I’m so excited.”

2. “That Must’ve Been Tough—[Name] Was Probably Having a Bad Day. Anyway, Did You Hear About…?”

When someone is complaining about another person, your best bet is to express some sympathy for both of them and then quickly move on.

3. “Ugh—I’d Much Rather Talk About [Your Weekend Plans/Apartment Progress/Exciting New Project]! How Is it Going?”

The key to switching the topic so blatantly is to make it about the other person. Hey, everyone loves to talk about themselves—take advantage of it!

4. “I’d Love to Chat, But I’m Super Busy Right Now.”

This response is a great way to politely end a conversation with anyone dead-set on gossiping. And if this person approaches you later to try again, stay polite but disengaged. He or she will get the hint.

5. “Hmm, That’s So Weird—I’ve Only Had Great Experiences With [Name].”

It’s difficult to keep insulting or spreading gossip about people when the person you’re talking to has just praised them.

6. “If That’s True, I Don’t Want to Hear Any More!”

This response, delivered with a good-natured smile, is a foolproof way of stopping a mean-spirited person in his or her tracks.

7. “I’m Trying Not to Gossip Anymore. Let’s Talk About Your Side Gig Instead! How’s That Been Going?”

When you’ve tried changing the subject or showing disinterest, and your colleague is still trying to gossip, then come right out and say you’re kicking the habit.

The key? Make your announcement short and sweet, then ask a question. You don’t want to sound judgmental or disapproving.

8. “You Should Probably Talk to [Name] Directly. If it Were Me, I’d Want the Opportunity to Set the Record Straight.”

When you hear rumors that could affect a person’s professional reputation, use this reply to not-so-subtly show you’re not interested in discussing them.

Plus, you’ll seem mature, level-headed, and kind!

With these eight replies ready to go, avoiding workplace gossip will be super easy.