Are You a Queen or a Pawn?

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Karyn Connor

Recently, a young woman joined a professional group to which I belong. Soon after joining, she started to ask questions and offer interpretations of other members—otherwise known as gossip.

At first, people didn’t seem to notice, but the more questions she asked, and the more information about people she repeated (sometimes with her own spin on it), the more the other members’ began to shy away from her.

For me, I stayed away from her as soon as I saw the gossip game in action. I subscribe to Socrates’s method of handling these social situations. Any time someone approaches me either with prying questions, or gossip to share, I pose to them Socrates’ three questions:

  1. Is it true? This means to ask if the information has been validated. So if someone is repeating speculation, then you cannot certify that the details are accurate, thus the answer to the question is “no”.
  2. Is it kind? Self-explanatory. Is the information is not flattering, nice, or generous?
  3. Is it necessary? Does the listener need to know the information in order to be safe, make deadlines, etc.

If the answer to these questions is “no”, then it is gossip. For example, this woman told people that one of the other members was having financial difficulties. Is it gossip? Let’s see:

  1. Is it true? No. Most people do not discuss their intimate financial details with new acquaintances, thus the details are likely not verifiable by this new arrival to the group.
  2. Is it kind? Would the person about whom the statement is made be happy or grateful that someone is sharing this detail about them? No.
  3. Is it necessary? Does the listener need to know about this other person’s financial distress for his own safety or preparation? No.

People who gossip are showcasing insecurities because they would rather take someone down, then build themselves up. Those who listen to gossip likewise highlight their insecure need to verify that they are still secure in their social standing.

Personally, I have no patience for gossip at all. Gossip is an attempt to manipulate the social playground so as to feel more powerful. Gossipers are essentially pawns struggling to move across the game board, players without any special skills or talents of their own.

I prefer people who have already earned their crown through their own successes, and not by squashing others. To defeat other pawns just makes you a meaner or sneakier pawn. To be a queen is to have cultivated your inner power and be confident in your ability to stand apart, to get your hands and image dirty in order to be authentic.

“Know your opponent and you will never lose. Know yourself and you will always win.” Sun Tzu’s Art of War.

Check out Karyn Connor’s book: #BeBold: How to be a Woman of Power and Influence
Available now!