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Are you just venting, or are you a toxic gossip-lover? A therapist shares 3 ways to tell.

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Blake Lively and Leighton Meester starred in the CW drama "Gossip Girl."CW
  • Venting and gossiping seem like the same thing. But one is toxic and can harm your relationships.

  • A therapist said venting is healthy, but it can morph into gossip if you're not intentional.

  • Keeping personal details private and focusing on your emotions can help curb gossip.

Gossip is all around us – at work, in your friend groups, and in celebrity-focused headlines – making it seemingly impossible to avoid participating in a bit of buzzy chit chat.

But no matter how common the practice is, gossiping is still toxic, and choosing to do so can harm your relationships, Naiylah Warren, a therapist and clinical content manager of the relationship app Real, told Insider.


She said gossip could entail sharing information about someone without their consent after they confided in you, or exaggerating or falsifying a story about someone. People may gossip with the intention of spreading rumors, or connecting over drama they view as harmless, but that isn't always the case, Warren said.

Any type of gossip can hurt the person who is talked about and the person gossiping, she said.

"It can make people less trusting of us if they find us sharing someone's stories or personal details," Warren said. Plus, you can never know how a piece of gossip could impact someone's life if it gets spread around.

Warren said that gossiping can often be mistaken for venting, which can actually be a helpful practice for processing emotions. But people often use the words "gossip" and "vent" interchangeably, which could lead to confusion, distrust, and hurt feelings.

Knowing the signs of gossip and stopping it in its tracks, on the other hand, can lead to more mutually fulfilling and connected relationships in your life, Warren said. She explained how to tell the difference between the two.

You're gossiping if you share personal details without permission

When a friend tells you a dramatic personal story or confides in you, it can often be our instinct to tell someone else without asking for permission first. Humans connect through storytelling, so it makes sense to feel that urge, Warren said.

But that doesn't mean it's a healthy thing to do. When someone shares others' stories, or gives identifying information while complaining about someone, they're engaging in gossip, Warren said.

If you notice you do this, Warren suggested one mindful tweak that could help you turn gossip into a non-toxic and helpful vent session: Leave out names and other identifying details.

Instead, tell a friend how a situation made you feel, Warren said. You could even ask for their advice on what to do next, or brainstorm ideas on how to confront the anonymous friend, coworker, or family member you're venting about.

You're venting if you're trying to solve a problem

According to Warren, venting is a way to feel heard and understood about something that happened to you. It can also be a way to decide how to remedy that situation.

While gossiping centers another person, venting centers around the person speaking and the emotions they had during a particular experience, Warren said.

She believes that everyone should have a "venting buddy" who can offer an outside opinion or words of validation or encouragement if you had an isolated and emotionally triggering experience that you're trying to understand.

"Sometimes, things happen and you want to be able to share that with people," she told Insider.

If you want to vent to a friend you could say something like, "I feel like I'm being taken advantage of at work. A co-worker keeps talking over me in meetings, and I also feel like they take my ideas and pawn them off as their own. I'm so frustrated and angry! What do you think I should do?"

This way, you're getting to the root of your problem, and you desire to be heard, without demeaning an identifiable person, Warren said.

"Venting should lead to resolve with the individual you're venting about, whether having a conversation with them, sending them a text message, or maybe not talking to them anymore," Warren told Insider.

You're gossiping if you're trying to change someone's opinion about a person

Well-intentioned vent sessions can also run the risk of transforming into gossip, according to Warren.

She said that's the case when someone shares a difficult situation in an attempt to win favor from the person listening, rather than to let off steam and move forward.

If you notice yourself trying to prove you're a better person than the person you're talking about, or attempting to convince someone that they should take your side, it probably means you're gossiping, not venting, Warren said.

Ultimately, gossip isn't going away, and it's likely that we'll all continue to engage in it one way or another, Warren said.

That's why it's better to focus on how to be more intentional about the stories you share, rather than spiral into shame over the gossip you've shared in the past, she said.

Read the original article on Insider