Gossip in English — How to Deal with It Directly but Politely

Apr 3, 2019 | English Conversation

I’ll be honest with you — I hate gossip. There’s nothing positive about it. Like many others in the Confident English Community, you might feel the same way. So, when you hear gossip in English, what should you do? How can you respond or stop it in a direct but polite way? 

What I love about this particular lesson is it came from a question on my YouTube channel

Several months ago, I did a lesson on How to Deal with Uncomfortable Questions in English. One subscriber shared a comment and a question. She said:

“May I have a request? By the way, love your videos. My request is that when you have a friend that every time you go out with them and they always talk bad about the other friends and you don’t want to hear about it and you don’t know what to tell her to stop in a nice way. I do like to spend time with her, but would like to talk about fun stuff or some events. Thank you in advance.”

I’m thrilled to answer this question and help you know exactly what to say and do when you want to stop gossip in English. 

So the next time you hear someone say, “OMG! Did you hear what she said yesterday? She’s so ridiculous!,” you’ll know how to respond in a direct but polite way.

How to deal with gossip in English.

Lesson by Annemarie

3 Strategies to Put a Stop to Gossip in English

Strategy 1: Change it up

The first strategy is simply to change the subject. If you change the subject whenever the gossip comes up, after a few times most people will realize that you are simply not into gossiping. You could do this by jumping in with another topic, for example:

  • Hey, did you see that new movie?
  • I’ve just booked tickets to a show.
  • Anyway, how was your presentation the other day?

Strategy 2: Shut it down

If you really want to make it clear you don’t want to be a part of gossip, then you need to really clearly shut it down and put a stop to it by making your feelings clear. The key here, especially if this is a friend, it is much better to use ‘I’ and talk about your own feelings, rather than say ‘you’ and blame them or make them feel attacked. If you want to stay friends, then you just state your feelings using ‘I’ or ‘me’, like this:

  • I don’t feel right talking about people behind their backs.
  • This conversation is making me uncomfortable.
  • I’m not really into gossip, can we talk about something else?

Then request to change the subject. Here’s how:

  • Can we talk about something else?
  • Would you mind changing the topic?
  • Would it be okay if we changed the subject?
  • I think we need to move on.
  • I think we need to change the subject.

Strategy 3: Create an opportunity for change

The third strategy is when you really hope that things can change. Strategies 1 and 2 do have potential to lead to change, but strategy 3 asks for change more directly. So, if the gossip is happening a lot, maybe it is time to tell your friend how you feel and why and work towards changing the situation. You start with the phrases from strategy 2, for example:

  • I don’t feel right talking about people behind their backs.

Next, there is some really great advice you could share with your friend. You could say:

I heard some good advice recently that I am trying. There are three questions to think about, before talking about someone who isn’t there. First I ask myself ‘is what I am going to say kind?’ Second, I ask myself, ‘is what I am going to say necessary?’ And finally I ask myself ‘is it helpful to say this?’ So that is what I am trying to do these days, what do you think?

This will open up a discussion about gossip and the power of positive speech. It will be a great chance to see how your friend feels and let them know how you feel.

Now that you’ve watched the video and reviewed the lesson, I’d love to hear from you. 

Use this opportunity to practice what you learned in the lesson. Imagine a friend says this to you, how would you respond:

  1. Oh my goodness, I can’t believe what she did, she is just ridiculous! Did you hear what she said the other day?

Share your example with me in the comments below. It’s the best place to get feedback and learn from others in the Confident English Community. 

Have a lovely day, 


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