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How do I stop talking about other people

  • 02-01-2020 11:36pm
    Registered Users Posts: 166,026 ✭✭✭✭

    Im in my 30's but have had this issue my entire life. When I was a child I had a falling out with a friend on her birthday after she over heard me talking badly about her to a group of other children. As a teenager, I lost friends through saying awful things behind the backs of other friends and people they knew. I have always been very critical of other people.
    It's like a compulsion that I cant stop, I just have this need to voice my critical opinions about other people, I judge them, I judge how they live their lives, their relationships, how they spend their money, their friends, things that are none of my business and have no effect on my life what so ever.
    When im talking about people I initially feel great, it feels cathartic and to be very honest, it makes me feel better about my own life and bad decisions but afterwards I feel terrible, embarrassed and like im an awful person.
    It's so bad that I often don't know what else to talk about when im around other people, the first question ill ask is 'how is so and so', as an opening to gossip about said person.
    I will even criticise people behind their backs without realising and only after will I reflect and feel that I shouldnt have said what I said, it just slips out.
    I had a particularly bad incident on New years, after a few too many drinks with a friend, I began bitching about people she knew, I picked them apart and said some horrible things that I really regret. I hardly know these people that I was speaking badly about, I had no right to speak that way about them and feel that I really let myself down, I feel that this have friend has distanced herself from me a little bit although we wearnt very close, I haven't heard much from her since new years.

    Ive decided to stop drinking but still cant shake the feeling that I am a horrible person.
    How do I stop doing this? I want to change but I don't know how to.


  • Moderators, Society & Culture Moderators Posts: 15,408 Mod ✭✭✭✭woodchuck

    Well it sounds like it's a good idea to cut back on the drinking for a start, as it sounds like that makes the problem worse.

    But I think this is the real root cause:
    it makes me feel better about my own life and bad decisions

    I think you need to start doing a little introspection and figure out what it is that you don't like about your own life and start taking steps to improve your lot. Counselling might not be a bad idea. Once you sort yourself out, you probably won't feel the need to criticise others as much.

  • Registered Users Posts: 117 ✭✭ChrissieH

    Is this something that was common in your house when you were growing up?

    I can identify with you to an extent. My mother had no life outside of our family, and I mean NO life; neither of my parents ever went out or had much of a social circle but at least my Dad had his job to go to, my mother didn't, and I guess her personality must have leant towards being a bit negative anyway because I'm sure there were plenty of other people in the same situation that didn't behave the same way she did, but basically she had something bitchy to say about everyone and everything and to me, it was normal to pass comments about everything people did or didn't do, how they looked, spoke etc. For me, I think I regarded it as a way to bond with other people - like "let's all sit here and give out about something in order to have common ground".
    Thankfully, once I went to college and met new people, a few passed remarks such as "you're always complaining" and that stung me because I genuinely wasn't complaining - as in, like you said, I literally didn't care what anyone else was doing or what they look like, but I would talk about it as if I did, so obviously it appeared as though I was a total judgey whinge-bag, even though that's not my personality at all!!

    I probably would have continued that way if it wasn't for those random comments from people throughout my 20s, but even now, I often do immediately think something critical or judgmental about someone, but luckily I don't voice it anymore, except, like you, the odd time when I'm drunk, my filter is gone and I can get very bitchy and it is very disappointing. I am embarrassed about things I've said and I look in wonder at some of my friends who I have literally NEVER heard criticising anyone, and wish I could be like them.

    I think all you can do is make a conscious effort to censor what you say and as woodchuck said, start looking at why you feel the cathartic effects of letting this negativity spew out of you. It has been put inside of you from somewhere. Start figuring that stuff out and you'll probably realise, like I did, that it's not your own genuine self at all.

  • Registered Users Posts: 166,026 ✭✭✭✭LegacyUser

    OP here.

    Yes it was very common in my house, my mother bitched and talked about everyone, she would bitch about us all in the household behind each others backs, bitch about her friends, sisters and colleagues. She did and does have a life of her own but is very pass remarkable of other people.
    My aunties all bitched too and could be very nasty, often excluding and ganging up on each other and different members of the family then becoming close again only to gang up on and exclude somebody else and the cycle would repeat, very similar to how things were in my house hold growing up. My mother would often try and turn members of the family against each other by bitching, spreading rumors, stirring trouble and this would often result in fights among members of the family, sometimes it felt like we were being pitted against each other. I suppose its what she learned from her own household growing up. My older brother often tells lies about people, makes up or exaggerates stories and spreads rumors, so maybe we were both effect by it differently. He lies about people and spreads rumors about them, I bitch and pick people apart.

    When I was in school I was bullied and would often hear girls talking behind my back and bitching about me and other girls. Through this and my home experience, I thought that's just normal and how people treat each other.

    It's such an awful habit that I wish I could break.

    Ive been to counselling but didn't find it very helpful. I talked about my experience and problems which was nice to get it all out but im already aware of my behavior, I just don't know how to stop it and didn't feel counselling helped me. In all honesty I thought the therapists that I went to were very judgmental.

  • Registered Users Posts: 9,061 ✭✭✭leggo

    I find your response to counselling extremely interesting. Counsellors are supposed to essentially hold a mirror up to us and bring us in touch with how we feel about ourselves. And what do you call the counsellors you’ve been with? Judgemental: the exact same thing you’re criticising yourself for.

    I feel for you. Would I be right in saying that you’ve identified the issue, where it comes from but your problem is just not understanding any other way to relate to people? The only real solution is not to do it. Be aware of the consequences: when people hear you picking someone apart, their default response is either to get involved if they feel similarly or to think “Jeez do they pick me apart the same way when I’m not here?” And adjust their time around you accordingly. You’ve already experienced this to a degree with your friend on NYE. Make no mistake about it, that can happen with everyone you know until you totally isolate yourself and people don’t want to be around you. Friendship isn’t a right, it’s a luxury and a choice, and if that kind of negativity is all you’re putting out then you have to be aware that you’ll a) only attract friends with similar negative mindsets and b) a lot will just opt out. So, for your own benefit, assume the worst and that if you continue to act this way you’ll be left with nobody to talk to when you need. With that in mind it should give you pause for thought, or maybe you need to lose a really valuable friend first and feel the pain involved to do so.

    As for how to relate? Just watch others and what they do instead of bitching. Copy things you think will fit for you particularly and go from there. That’s how we all learn.

  • Registered Users Posts: 1,021 ✭✭✭Daisy78

    I think you recognise that talking about others behind their backs serves no purpose, it may be gratifying in the immediate moment but doesn’t make you feel better in the long term. I really do believe that gossiping about others, the mean spirited kind of gossip impacts on our own positive energy. At a certain level you know it’s not right and come away feeling terrible afterwards. As you noted yourself it’s a compulsion, one which you might not have questioned up to now. As someone else pointed out if you grew up with parents who were on the pass remarkable side who habitually talked about others behind their back then it’s no surprise that you engage in this way yourself.

    What to do about it? Well I think acknowledging the fact that you do this is the first step. Proactively challenging negative thoughts/feelings when they arise is important. Ask yourself if your judgement is fair? Is the individual in question a decent person who may not deserve such negative criticism? Life is hard, most people are trying their best with what they have got and for the most part a lot is outside of our control. Criticising somebody for their appearance when it’s something they can’t change, or looking down on someone for doing a particular job, you don’t know what circumstances brought them to that point so it’s pointless (and unfair) to pass comment. Adopting a more compassionate and open minded attitude will help to influence your thoughts about that person in a more positive way. And as someone else mentioned above nobody likes a bitch (and I would use that term for both men and women btw), you might think you come across as confident and self assured but people, even close friends grow wary of this, being around negative people who trash talk others becomes very off putting, you could find yourself with a much reduced social circle if you don’t address it. Bonding with others by talking down others isn’t a healthy way to grow friendships.

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  • Registered Users Posts: 166,026 ✭✭✭✭LegacyUser

    Thanks for replying
    @Leggo, that post was really helpful and gave me something to think about, thanks for that.

    Just wanted to say, im not bitching about peoples jobs or how they look, its more so about their behavior and how they carry on, particularly if that person has hurt or annoyed me in some way, sometimes it's maybe my way of being vengeful or something? As horrible as that sounds. When I feel judged, hurt or annoyed by people it makes me feel better to bitch about them.

    I dont think I come across as self assured or confident at all, I think I come across completely the opposite.

  • Closed Accounts Posts: 4,012 ✭✭✭stop animal cruelty

    Hey op,

    Just wanted to say I relate completely to you.

    I too grew up in a house, and have extended family members who bitched, put down, criticized and judged so many people, tbh most.

    It wasn't good for me to be around, as I use to think that's how everyone thinks.. . . And would say the same kind of things about me.

    I too though picked up this habit, it's something I became aware of quiet a while ago. It's something that just turns you into a bitter cold person.

    What I do to try help is I keep in mind of someone I look up to, and remind myself that this wouldn't be the way this person would carry on.

    Like other posters have said, it can be a very off putting trait. People don't like people who gossip and bitch about others.. . ..People who do though are ones that are not happy within themselves.

    It's a hard switch to keep switched off. Whenever I find myself thinking or saying something negative about someone I try be aware of my thoughts.. . .. And try to put the outside my head. I try think I wouldn't like that said about me. I believe karma watches also.

    You need to be more careful. Just become more aware.. . . And don't say those judgements out loud. Remember these kind of things are best said, not said.

  • Registered Users Posts: 166,026 ✭✭✭✭LegacyUser

    I went to counselling 2 years ago and was recommended CBT. It was the best thing for me to try as I had really bad thought traits that were unhealthy for me and made me feel crap about myself. I was able to retrain my brain and change my negative thought patterns (which I had had for years) over a period of practice everyday. I would recommend it OP, I know these patterns can be hard to break especially if it's all you know and it's a learned behaviour. But it's worth a shot and I wish you the best with it.

  • Registered Users Posts: 117 ✭✭ChrissieH

    Leggo makes a great point about the feeling that counselling gave you; is it possible that it wasn't a case of the therapist being judgmental, but that through voicing aloud the way you talk about people, you felt ashamed? ... which is pretty much the same feeling you get when you are being judged by others.
    Don't mix them up - I do think that counselling could be so beneficial to you, so I would hate you to disregard the idea because you feel that you were judged.
    Counsellors generally don't judge people at all, it's a huge part of their training and their code of ethics. And at the end of the day, their clients are their work; they provide support for the hour they're paying them, but beyond that, they don't really give a sh1t what we do.

    The reason I think counselling might help you is because if you're finding it hard to break patterns (i.e. stopping the sh1t talk), then as You Can Change said, CBT can help with that.
    Also, aside from specific CBT counselling, any sort of talk therapy is good for getting a really deep understanding of yourself, and that eventually leads to self-acceptance, which eventually equals confidence, and I think all of us would agree that confident people don't feel any need to talk badly about other people.

    You said that you feel like bitching about people that you feel have judged, hurt or annoyed you; again, this is something that you could discuss in counselling, to ascertain why you respond this way to perceived criticism or hurt.
    It could all be linked to your family environment if you think that you and your siblings were almost pitted against each other, then it sounds like you probably have some belief that there can only be 1 "winner" or "favourite" or whatever, in every situation, so that would surely create massive insecurity in a child - nobody wants to be the loser or the black sheep, or the person that everyone else is bitching about, so the pressure to be perfect is pretty intense. And it's also impossible to achieve, so what better way to distract from your own imperfections, only to point out someone else's!

    It's hard to explain what I mean in writing, but if you were to really explore the compulsion you have to criticise others, I'm sure it would emerge that it happens when you're feeling vulnerable. So it would be really helpful to you to figure out what exactly you're insecure about, and then work on building yourself up, and I'm certain you'd find that the negative thoughts will just become less frequent as time goes by and you will have solved the problem of how to stop the negative talk.

  • Closed Accounts Posts: 143 ✭✭Unanimous

    I had an issue with a friend and he lashed out and called me names. Then immediately started to apologize.
    I found it hard to believe he was really sorry because he is fond tearing people down so maybe it was my turn because he was angry. I let it go because I esteem him and his views lightly (due to this habit) and so i just couldn't dwell on it for long.
    If you catch yourself doing it, remember that it tells people how you handle conflicts and so you scare good people off.
    Do you have issues forgiving people? If yes, that is something you need to address as well.
    It is the first step on how to stop. If you are not as angry, you will not say those things. And if the anger comes randomly, do step 2
    Secondly, if you say it, retract it immediately. "say oh my, did i say that, i retract it and I am sorry. I may still be angry that they did something to me but maybe they didnt even mean it or didnt even know...etc"
    Try to be nice to the people who offend you, most times, you realize after saying hi a few times, you are not that mad.
    We are all humans and have been and will be a bitch to someone so it should not be hard to forgive others.
    If someone is really an idiot towards you, it is those around you that should be the judge of that and not you.
    Declare to your friends as your new year resolution and ask them to remind you nicely if you slip.
    And any friend who exhibits similar behaviour and wants to continue should not be put on a long finger so you dont slip.

    All the best.

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  • Registered Users Posts: 166,026 ✭✭✭✭LegacyUser

    Hi everyone, original poster here. I just wanted to thank everyone for their responses and wanted to give an update.
    I havnt drank since New years and plan on keeping that up, I have also not heard anything from my friend since New years. I contacted her to apologise, she respnded , laughed it off and told me not to worry but I think she was just being nice, she ahs distanced herself and I dont blame her. I would distance myself from me too.
    I have gone back to counselling and delighted to say I found a therapist who I feel is not judgmental and has been really helping me. She said she can only offer me 6 sessions, we have 3 sessions left and in that short time ive learned allot about myself.
    I learned that im a perfectionist and this causes me to be highly critical of other people and highly critical of myself. I live my life in constant fear of other peoples criticism and evaluations and I evaluate and criticize other people. Being aware of this has allowed me to make the changes I need to make.
    I hope that going forward I will be a nicer person and not drag others down.
    Thank you again for taking the time to respond.

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