THE BLOG
06/07/2012 03:27 pm ET | Updated Aug 07, 2012

Is Gossip Killing Your Relationships?

It's always fun to talk to approachable, great listeners who have the latest scoop on your mutual friends' lives, with even a small penchant for gossiping. But, when these friends go too far and begin gossiping incessantly, prying into friends' lives, and constantly advising "here's what you should do," you may be dealing with a "Fixer" -- one of the eight "Impostors" I've identified that keep people from living from their authentic soul.

In my work as life coach, my clients often complain that people in their lives are always trying to "fix" them. While these "Fixers" may be well meaning, sometimes their reliance on fixing other people's problems to bolster their own self-worth and identity. Unlike its "Impostor" sibling, the "Counselor," the "Fixer" doesn't try to solve problems with clinical methods and rationale; rather, the "Fixer" invests its time and energy in gossiping about others' issues, often undermining its own success and progress.

The "Fixer" in Action

Here's what a typical "Fixer Impostor" looks like:
  • The "Fixer" is very similar to the "Counselor Impostor" in that the person wants to help others. But while the "Counselor" often takes a studied or professional route, the "Fixer" is more like a gossipy interloper.
  • "Fixers" like to surround themselves with people who need a lot of help, and feel wounded or slighted when these people don't seek them out for advice.
  • Their sense of self-worth and identity stem from a desire to help others. But when they do "help," they often enjoy poking holes in other people's successes.
  • They seek attention and approval through seeming altruism, but their neurosis deters them from forming trusting ties with loved ones due to their tendency to broadcasting their good deeds.

Gossip is the "Fixer's" way of maintaining its importance in a social circle. But many people don't realize that gossiping is a double-edged sword. Sure, it's fun to listen to and join in with at times. But generally those in attendance view the gossiper in a negative light.

For the "Fixers," gossip is an indispensible tool. They use it to establish intimate connections and trust, build alliances, maintain influence, and even to save others from exploitation. However, because the Fixer's true intentions are not to help but rather to reinforce their own self-image, they often take gossip to a whole new level.

How to Deal with the "Fixer Impostor"

"Fixers" are present in every family and every social circle. In fact, they often keep the circle together. Rather than succumbing to the temptation to gossip or become mad at them, try the following techniques:

  • If your pleasant, fun conversation at Starbucks takes an ugly turn for gossip circulating in your personal circles, don't take the bait! Return the subject to something light and they'll get the point. Maintain strong boundaries when discussing your inner circle. Engaging with "Fixers" frequently backfires because they go behind you and claim that you were the source of something they actually said.
  • Parents have a strong tendency towards the "Fixer Impostor." Recognize that your parents' concern stems from caring deeply about you, however irritating their methods may be. Satiate their "Fixer" by giving them small, acceptable ways to help you. If their attempts to "fix" you are getting out of hand, ask that they respect your journey. Sit them down, share how their attempts to "fix" you make you feel, reiterate that you love them, and then explain that for a healthy relationship you may need to establish stronger boundaries. Like the saying goes, "Good fences make good neighbors!"
  • During holiday dinners, everyone's "Fixer" comes out to play because it's easy to connect when talking about family and everyone's news. Remember to follow the golden rule and do not do unto others as you would not have them do unto you. Remove yourself from the situation -- go get the croissant you've been eyeing on the counter and stay out of the dangerous gossiping cycle. You'll be seeing everyone again, so stay out of the bickering and save yourself a lot of hassle.

Stop Spreading the News

A creature of gossip, the "Fixer" means well. But it's often also serving its own interests, causing more harm than good. The best way to rid yourself of this mask is to pursue your own dreams and focus on your own problems rather than fixating on others' issues. This doesn't mean you shouldn't lend a helping hand or a needed ear to a friend's concerns, but in lieu of investing all your energy and attention to fixing, direct some of that toward things that concern your life journey and that bring you real and lasting happiness.

EXERCISE: Getting Centered, Becoming Still

Your Fixer compels you to get up in the mix, even when it may make the situation worse! One of the first steps to getting a handle on your impulses is to begin practicing some simple mindfulness exercises.

One core mindfulness meditation is placing your attention on your breath. Find a comfortable place to sit, and try to clear your head of your thoughts by noticing your breath. Don't change the way that you're breathing, just notice the air coming in as you inhale, and out as you exhale. Notice the differences between each breath. As thoughts arise, gently notice them and then release them, like observing passing clouds in the sky. Each time your mind drifts, return to your breath.

By beginning to watch your thoughts as an observer, and releasing them instead of allowing them pull you into impulsive action, you can practice simply being in a situation without trying to solve it.

For more by Lisa Haisha, click here.

For more on emotional intelligence, click here.

About the "Impostors": The "Impostors" are the cast of characters that star in Lisa Haisha's Soul Blazing. They could be a metaphor for the "masks" that you wear, especially when confronted with something that you fear. Sometimes they're the voice in your head telling you that you're not good enough, or re-iterating negative conversations or experiences from your past that keep you stuck, like quicksand that keeps you from picking yourself up. These pesky devils are the saboteurs and squatters that live in the temple of your Authentic Soul, and keep you from shining bright!

There are eight Impostors in this cast, and they are:
  • The Wounded Inner Child
  • The Over Thinker
  • The Counselor
  • The Sex God(dess)
  • The Narcissist
  • The Philosopher
  • The Clown
  • The Fixer

Find out which "Impostor" is residing within you by taking this free quiz.