“Gossiping has become the main form of communication in human society. It has become the way we feel close to each other, because it makes us feel better to see someone else feel as badly as we do. There is an old expression that says, ‘Misery loves company,’ and people who are suffering in hell don’t want to be all alone.” – Don Miguel Ruiz

To summarize one of the basic tenets from Don Miguel Ruiz’s book The Four Agreements, be impeccable with your word. Speak with integrity. Say only what you mean. Avoid using your words to speak against yourself or to gossip about others. Use the power of your word in the direction of truth and love.

For almost everyone, gossip has been a part of our lives since we were children. Chances are we heard the adults in our lives gossiping and giving their opinions about other people. We saw gossip as a normal way to communicate. Everyone was doing it.

Everyone is still doing it; it’s omnipresent. Look around. Tabloid magazines are full of gossip. Reality TV capitalizes on people talking bad about one another. Social media sites are full of people venting about individuals — often times, people they don’t know — using words they wouldn’t dare speak in face-to-face conversation.

Gossiping has become a primary form of communication. We use gossip to feel close to one another and to feel better about ourselves.

But just because it’s normal doesn’t make it right. Gossip is poison. For those who are the target, gossip can be very painful and humiliating, and it can have a long-term detrimental impact on self-confidence and self-esteem. To that end, it can contribute to depression, anxiety, eating disorders and even suicidal thoughts and tendencies.

Gossip can negatively impact a person’s performance at school or work, and it can negatively impact relationships, leaving one feeling ostracized and alone. Gossip can damage reputations and character.

Ruiz says,Gossip is black magic at its very worst because it is pure poison…At first, it may be difficult to avoid gossip entirely, but eventually, you will see how breaking the agreement to gossip will transform your life.”

While it can be difficult to break the habit of gossiping, awareness is key. It starts with noticing how many group interactions deal with gossip. Noticing which friends and groups spend more time gossiping. Paying attention to when and where you partake in gossip. Notice how it makes you feel when you gossip about yourself or others.

When you find yourself gossiping, stop, apologize and explain to your friends that you’re trying to break the bad habit. Bring up a different subject — move the conversation to a positive direction. Make others aware by telling them that the conversation is centered on gossip and you don’t want to be a part of it. Avoid habitual gossipers. Remove yourself from the situation.