Author Topic: Shutting down the toxic family gossip  (Read 5269 times)

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Tea Drinker

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Re: Shutting down the toxic family gossip
« Reply #15 on: January 13, 2013, 07:46:40 PM »

So, how does one respond when a relative suddenly says "And of course, Grandpa was a pedophile!" during dinner?      I would like a cool line that smoothly and politely conveys that a topic is inappropriate and segways into something else without creating a confrontation or drama.   I don't want to feed the drama llama, but I want to avoid her ruining the occasion or dragging us down to her level.

If that's a literal example, I would probably say something like "I'm so sorry you were abused, are you seeing a therapist?" or "I'm so sorry you were abused, but I think that's a topic for your therapist's office, not Christmas dinner," depending on whether I thought the speaker was in need of therapy they weren't getting. Any response along the lines of "I don't mean he abused me" would get "Oh, good, then we don't need to talk about it during our holiday dinner."

My figuring there is that the odds are that this is malicious gossip (or thoughtless "pay attention to me!" gossip from someone who figures Grandpa is dead and no longer cares what's said about him), but if not, I want the message to be "I recognize that he did something horrible to you, and we can talk about it later" rather than "don't disturb our belief in a happy family with your suffering."

For a huge range of other topics, yes, go straight to the bean dip: whether a long-dead relative cheated on his wife, or was secretly a member of the Purple religion, or didn't actually graduate from high school isn't something that directly hurt the speaker.
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Allyson

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Re: Shutting down the toxic family gossip
« Reply #16 on: January 13, 2013, 08:03:15 PM »
This reminds me of being in the car with someone who then started going into graphic detail about how he used to have suicidal thoughts...involving driving a car into something. Not a very relaxing drive after that...


Ceallach

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Re: Shutting down the toxic family gossip
« Reply #17 on: January 13, 2013, 09:27:57 PM »

So, how does one respond when a relative suddenly says "And of course, Grandpa was a pedophile!" during dinner?      I would like a cool line that smoothly and politely conveys that a topic is inappropriate and segways into something else without creating a confrontation or drama.   I don't want to feed the drama llama, but I want to avoid her ruining the occasion or dragging us down to her level.

If that's a literal example, I would probably say something like "I'm so sorry you were abused, are you seeing a therapist?" or "I'm so sorry you were abused, but I think that's a topic for your therapist's office, not Christmas dinner," depending on whether I thought the speaker was in need of therapy they weren't getting. Any response along the lines of "I don't mean he abused me" would get "Oh, good, then we don't need to talk about it during our holiday dinner."

My figuring there is that the odds are that this is malicious gossip (or thoughtless "pay attention to me!" gossip from someone who figures Grandpa is dead and no longer cares what's said about him), but if not, I want the message to be "I recognize that he did something horrible to you, and we can talk about it later" rather than "don't disturb our belief in a happy family with your suffering."

For a huge range of other topics, yes, go straight to the bean dip: whether a long-dead relative cheated on his wife, or was secretly a member of the Purple religion, or didn't actually graduate from high school isn't something that directly hurt the speaker.

That is actually an example, but she wasn't referring to herself at all, in fact if anything she was implying that my own parent may have been abused.  (I doubt it, although it's possible.   Either way, I doubt my parent would want me bringing it up after all these decades!).    I think it's almost a test to see if people "know' the same gossip as her, KWIM?     So I could have played dumb and asked about her abuse but that again continued focus on an awkward topic.     So beandip seems the only option, but even then by ignoring her comment she'd sometimes repeat it again more loudly.

UPDATE:   Coincidentally I saw the hosts of the dinner party in question again today.   Out of the blue the wife said "By the way, so sorry about Clare the other day!"  I laughed and said "It's ok, with her there's always something".   The hostess is the wife of my relative (so slightly more removed) and she said that she honestly had never observed Clare's rude behaviour before this recent visit,  Clare was their houseguest and she had a rude awakening to Clare's true colours.   She said she couldn't believe the nasty things Clare said about various family members, and was so relieved when Clare left!   She agreed with me that part of the problem is that Clare delivers things in such an upbeat way and with such apparent ignorance of any inappropriateness that it's very hard to address with her.   They said thankfully they only see Clare once a year.    :)
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Danika

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Re: Shutting down the toxic family gossip
« Reply #18 on: January 14, 2013, 05:49:41 AM »
...   They said thankfully they only see Clare once a year.    :)

You only see her once a year. They only see her once a year. I'm sensing a trend here. Too bad Clare hasn't figured it out.

ETA: fixing incorrect conjugation
« Last Edit: January 14, 2013, 06:22:02 AM by Danika »

Ceallach

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Re: Shutting down the toxic family gossip
« Reply #19 on: January 14, 2013, 06:01:33 AM »
...   They said thankfully they only see Clare once a year.    :)

You only see her once a year. They only see her once a year. I'm sensing a trend here. Too bad Clare isn't figure it out.

To be fair, we do live in different countries.  :-)
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rashea

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Re: Shutting down the toxic family gossip
« Reply #20 on: January 14, 2013, 12:53:25 PM »
Ideally, if you know you have one in the family, you arrange with everyone else there that if "Claire" goes off on something inappropriate, everyone else pretends they didn't hear it, and has a set topic to switch to. If she asks if you heard her, you can say "yes, but as the topic wasn't appropriate I chose to move on."
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Re: Shutting down the toxic family gossip
« Reply #21 on: January 14, 2013, 12:58:17 PM »
This reminds me of being in the car with someone who then started going into graphic detail about how he used to have suicidal thoughts...involving driving a car into something. Not a very relaxing drive after that...

Oh, dear. Yes, that's a bad time to bring up that particular skeleton.
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fluffy

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Re: Shutting down the toxic family gossip
« Reply #22 on: January 15, 2013, 03:50:41 PM »
I'm not from the South, but I do believe that Claire is the reason that they invented the phrase "well, bless your heart."

Eeep!

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Re: Shutting down the toxic family gossip
« Reply #23 on: January 15, 2013, 04:05:39 PM »
Well if we are going with the Lady of Yesteryear idea, I think I would say something like "Oh really, Clare. Must you?" And then start a new conversation.  >:D
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