Napolean used this proverb when he returned from his exile in Elba in 1815. A simple expression that refers to unsavory secrets about one’s private life that are brought to the public’s attention when they should be kept at home.
There are those who air their own dirty laundry and then there are those who air other peoples’.
Why do people air their dirty laundry? Is it so they feel better? Is it because they want someone to agree with their point of view? Or is it to diminish another person’s reputation so that they look like a saint? Whatever the reason, if someone wants to talk about their stuff, so be it, but when they bring someone else into their mess, this is a red flag.
We have all fallen prey to gossip at some point. You may not personally engage in the conversation, as a gossiper divulges information about someone else, but if you listen to it, you are essentially gossiping yourself.
I don’t like gossip. I have ended relationships with people who gossip. It might surprise you that I am a very private person and do not share intimate details of my life with too many people. I value the relationships I have with others as well, so when someone tells me something in private, the information goes no further.
But when people tell others things they have heard and relay it like they were there first hand, there is something really wrong with it. The saying goes, “Until you walk a mile in their moccasins” and if you haven’t done that, than you have no business speculating.
It has been my experience that people who gossip not only like attention, they really don’t like it when other people are doing better than they are. There is a disdain and bitterness that spews from them as they speak poorly about others. Doing so makes them feel like they are okay since they don’t have “those” problems, but I bet dollars to donuts they have far worse ones!
Have you ever given someone news about something you’re doing and you are super excited about it? They smile and say, “Congratulations!” but you get a feeling they don’t really mean it. There is an insincerity about it. That’s because deep down you know the minute your back is turned, they will talk to anyone who will listen about your latest venture and how ridiculous it is.
Nothing seems to be off the table when it comes to a gossiper. The juicier the story, the better. Sometimes people even make one up. This is done when someone has decided to end all prospects for you because they cannot fathom the idea of you moving on without them.
It’s called a smear campaign. This is when YOUR dirty laundry becomes front and center. It’s been used forever by candidates running for office. However, you need not be running for office to have a smear campaign done against you. All you have to do is try and live a life without a company or person/s who don’t want to see you go, and the smearing will commence.
This is done so insidiously, the gossiper actually makes you feel sorry for them. It is meticulously played out and done with such conviction, that you actually begin to think the person they are trashing is a horrible beast, which is a win to the gossiper who has vowed to ruin the person they talk poorly about at any cost.
Some companies will not let you go without a fight, nor will some exes. In fact, they become so enraged by the audacity of your departure, your name is mud. They will villainize you, make you look crazy and completely unbalanced.
Sounds absolutely nuts, right? I mean, wouldn’t it be obvious if someone were doing this? The answer…nope! The smear campaign is so convincing because when your ex company or ex in general starts to talk negatively about you, it’s done with feelings of hurt and conviction, so others will believe what they hear.
They might go on to say they can’t understand how it ended so abruptly. In fact, they seem to be clueless about it. They will say there must be something wrong with you. He/she always had a lot on his plate. He/she must be going through a midlife crisis. He/she never got over that one incident. The key point they are trying to bring home is this: there is something wrong with the person they are smearing.
There will always be an element of truth to their smearing. You did leave the company or ex for a better life, so that is true. But the smearer will go on to say that all they ever wanted was for you to be happy, to succeed, to feel loved. Ultimately they will make it look as though you never cared at all and that you can’t keep your commitments.
The way they seal the deal is by saying, “I don’t want to sound mean” or “They have me worried”. These phrases or similar ones are meant to imply that no matter how hard they tried to keep you, you were a problem. And you’re not only a problem, you’re hopeless and impossible.
Others will simply come right out with it and say you are a lunatic. And then they will tell story after story about all of the awful things you’ve done. This means they take every vulnerability you have ever shared with them in private (adding extras they make up) and air your dirty laundry for anyone who will give them an audience.
I’ve heard a few people carry on as they bash someone they were in a relationship with or a company they worked for. I am always fascinated by the victim mentality behind it all. The one constant that is there is the lack of accountability. This is another red flag.
While it may be difficult to get up and leave when someone starts in about other people, remember this: people who talk about others are clearly talking about you, so why even give them an audience? Don’t you have better things to do?