7 Red Flags Your Friend Is Gossiping About You, Experts Say
Loose lips sink ships. Here's how to know if your friend group is gabbing.
Not all gossip is mean-spirited—there's a range of reasons that people talk about one another behind their backs. While some people gossip to entertain themselves or out of malice for the person at the center of the discussion, studies have found that others do it to form stronger connections with others, vent about their feelings, or exchange information.
That said, even if a friend's intention isn't to cause harm, gossip can still deal major damage. "When your private struggles or vulnerabilities become public knowledge without your consent, it can break trust and create a hostile environment," explains Kelsey Atkinson, MCP, RCC, a clinical counselor based in Vancouver, BC. Ultimately, this can establish a toxic dynamic that could lead to hurt feelings and broken friendships.
The first step in ending the cycle of gossip is to look at your habits and commit to curbing your own loose tongue. However, it's also important to recognize the signs that friends may be gossiping about you, so you can protect your privacy and build relationships based on mutual trust instead. Read on to learn the seven red flags that your friend is gossiping about you, according to mental health professionals and life coaches.
They know more than you've shared.
Friends who seem overfamiliar with the details of your life are likely to be gossiping about you behind your back.
"One clear red flag that your friends may be gossiping about you is when they possess information about your personal life that you haven't shared with them directly," says Atkinson. "If you discover that details you confided in a close friend have reached others without your consent, it's a cause for concern. This breach of trust often suggests that your personal affairs are being discussed behind your back."
Ryan Hetrick, a therapist and the CEO of Epiphany Wellness, agrees that this is a major red flag. "If your friend suddenly has all the details of a situation you told them about days or weeks ago, it may indicate they've been discussing it with others without your knowledge," he tells Best Life.
They gossip about their other friends to you.
For some people, the urge to gossip is strong—and those people tend to gossip indiscriminately. That's why one of the clearest red flags that your friend is gossiping about you is that they gossip about others in their life to you.
"While it may be tempting to dismiss this behavior as casual conversation, it reveals a lot about their character and their likelihood of gossiping about you as well. It suggests that they may not consider the impact their words have on others, including you. If they are comfortable gossiping about people you both know, it's reasonable to assume they may engage in similar discussions about you when you're not around," says Atkinson.
They have alternate facts.
If your friends get the facts of your life straight from you, you'll recognize them as being consistent with your personal perspective. However, Atkinson says that if those people seem to have alternate facts, it could mean they're getting their information through other channels.
"Pay attention to inconsistencies in the stories your friends tell you or others about your life. If you notice that the information being shared doesn't align with what you've actually said or done, it could indicate that gossip is at play. When your friends distort the truth or embellish details, it's a sign that they may be spreading rumors for their own entertainment or personal gain," Atkinson tells Best Life.
Your friend group goes quiet when you walk in.
It would be especially bold for friends to gossip about you when you're nearby, but this unfortunately does happen on occasion. Bayu Prihandito, a certified life coach and founder at Life Architekture, says that you may become aware of such an incident if a conversation suddenly pauses when you approach to join in.
"Ever walked into a room and suddenly everyone goes quiet? If your friends are gossiping about you, the conversation often halts or awkwardly shifts when you enter the room," he says.
They're a little too interested in salacious details.
We all know people who live for drama—they're energized by discord and excited by salacious details. If your friend has this quality, they're far less likely than others to keep your private information to themselves.
However, the signs of this personality type aren't always immediately obvious. Hetrick says that when a friend is a little too probing about your personal life, this may be a subtle sign that they're prone to gossip. "Even if they are trying to be helpful, if they're asking too many questions or seem overly interested in your private life, it could be a sign that they've been talking behind your back," he says.
They don't back you up in social situations.
If your friend seems to support you more in private than in public, you should take note of that discrepancy. Their failure to back you up in the presence of others may be because they're hedging on your friendship.
Jay Trambadia, PsyD, a licensed clinical psychologist, says this could be a red flag that they gossip or talk badly about you and don't want to look hypocritical in mixed company. If they sit back on the sidelines without supporting you in a public, social setting, they're less likely to support you when you aren't around.
Their jokes about you are unkind or passive-aggressive.
How your friend reacts to you sharing a personal story can be very telling. If they respond with a joke at your expense—especially a joke that feels passive-aggressive or unkind—chances are they have more to say that they're not comfortable saying to your face.
While not everyone will take the next step of sharing their true feelings with others, this may be a red flag that they are more likely to do so, says Prihandito. "Be careful, especially if those jokes feel a bit too real. It's like they're seeing what they can say to your face because they've already talked about you when you're not around," he warns.
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