Truth or Gossip? Should we take someone’s opinion at face value and then share?

We hear stories all the time; some might even call them gossip. This is defined as “casual or unconstrained conversation or reports about other people, typically involving details that are not confirmed as being true.” 

Michelle (Obama) who writes an entire chapter on friendship and her valued Kitchen Table (of friends) in her new book, The Light We Carry, isn’t really as good a friend as she claims, says one friend of ours who lives in Chicago where Michelle grew up. How does she know, we ask? She replies that one of her friends knows her well and said so. It might be true but it’s so far from the image we both have of her. We start to wonder if third-hand information is a good enough confirmation. We’re not sure and prefer to give the former First Lady a pass since we’re fans of so much that she does. 

Or how about the story that loops through an online source repeatedly claiming that Chelsea Clinton is getting divorced from husband Marc Mezvinsky. That one we can put to bed since we’ve seen them smiling online somewhere with their three kids and Chelsea’s parents on a vacation in Rhode Island last summer. That’s not really reliable confirmation, either, or who knows anyway what goes on behind closed doors. They looked happy to us, so we’d also like to cut them some slack. After all, so many gave Chelsea such a hard time when she was growing up in the fishbowl of the White House. 

We all know about these famous people and the stories that follow them around, which are possible untruths, many chronicled in U.S. tabloids like the “Enquirer” or British ones such as “The Sun.” 

And all those Harry and Meghan stories of late. Whose truth is it, we ask? Is Camilla the wicked stepmother come to life? Is Kate cold and haughty? Is Charles really so distant? Who really knows and should we really care?

Stories also abound about non-famous people we know and like. Someone meets a friend of ours who isn’t warm and welcoming, and they share that with others. “She’s a cold fish. How could you be friendly with someone like that?” We might get defensive and explain, “Maybe, they were having a bad day.” 

Yet, maybe it’s human nature. Nevertheless, our friends’ friends form an opinion and then share it with many. One of our friends even told one of us that a friend of theirs didn’t like a friend of ours so they didn’t want to meet us! Talk about forming an unkind opinion. That sure stuck in one of our heads. We decided we’d probably not want to meet them either when they’re so judgmental.    

As a result, we’ve decided to put the kibosh on sharing other’s judgments to avoid them spreading, becoming diluted and changed like in the old-fashioned game of telephone. We’ll let others form their own opinions. 

If we’re asked, we’ll couch our opinion with a disclaimer. “This is what we think, but you may think otherwise. So why not see for yourself? And please don’t share our thoughts with others.” 

We all look for different characteristics in people, in places where we eat, what we eat, where we like to sleep, travel, even the type of mattresses and pillows we like to sleep on, those with whom we socialize and the type of people we hire to help us such as gardeners, cleaners, roof installers and more. How we react to each situation is, in part, about expectations and with whom we are comfortable. For example, we enjoy people with a good sense of humor—not snarky or sarcastic whereas others might find them ridiculous and their humor inane. Maybe, you prefer serious intellectual types, whom we might find too stiff and pedantic. You get the drift, right? 

We also believe in second chances. Everyone, and every place should get a pass or two or three for having an “off” day such as bad meal, bad service, bad mood. If a restaurant, perhaps, we’re too quick to post a negative review on Yelp or Travel Advisor. That can really hurt its business. 

Let’s slow down and handle it differently. First, we’re more likely to share our constructive criticism directly with the establishment and not the public. We also know that places are still having a terrible time recruiting staff post-COVID-19. The service at many has become slow, which we have watched slowly drip like the ketchup in a glass bottle. 

It's also important to remember it’s how you say something and often, the less said, the better. People have feelings and businesses are still regaining their sea legs. 

When one of our friends commented about a friend of one of ours whom they liked after a few meet-and-greets, we spoke up and said, “That’s great you like her,” and one of us added, “She hasn’t been nice in recent years, but we’re glad you find otherwise.” Our comment was based on first-hand experience. 

The bottom line is probably twofold--to wade into conversations with caution that stir strong feelings and opinions whether the chitchat is about people, places, food, clothing, design and others things, and not always to believe what you or others hear. If possible, go to the source and form your own opinions. Most of all, do not repeat criticisms based on third-hand info. In other words, be KIND, and that is worth repeating and following.

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