You’re a grown-ass woman, but sometimes you gossip like a teenager. I’m going to suggest something a bit radical now: that’s kind of okay. Just, as ever, don’t be an idiot about it, and try not to hurt anyone’s feelings or do anything you know is horribly wrong.

We as a culture seem to have developed a reality TV-fed belief that talking about someone behind their back is the WORST THING YOU CAN DO, and while it’s not a great thing to do, sometimes you just need to vent and collect your thoughts before either a) moving on or b) addressing the issue with the person in question in a mature fashion. We’re grown-ass women (and men? hedoesthecity? are you guys out there?? helloooo?) after all. There are ways that a good bitchfest can be useful, and I swear it can be as tension-relieving as a Swedish massage. Here’s how to talk shit in a productive way without hurting anyone.

Ancient Greek advice

If you want to get grad school about it, feel free to apply Aristotle’s test for speech to whatever it is you’re about to tell “the ladies” over drinks. Is the goss: a) true b) good or c) useful? It has to be two, I think. Maybe A-money thought it needed to be all of them, but I think it just needs to be true for sure and useful for second. I mean, if you want to go around saying good, true things about people that’s fine, but I don’t think it counts as gossip or shit talking. If someone’s done or said something legitimately bad, you should be able to talk about it but you better make sure you know it happened for a fact, otherwise you’re not gossiping, you’re lying, and that is way worse, even God says. (“Preach!” – God, 2012)

Location, location, location

The “It’s right behind me, isn’t it?” isn’t just for horror movies. No matter how big a city you’re in, it’s a small world out there. Consider where you are and have a proper look around before talkin’ trash. Also consider code names or descriptions instead of real names—it sounds pretty grade school but hey, so is gossip—which will help you to discuss people in the neighbourhood you live in without random baristas who they went to high school with or whatever overhearing. Just because you don’t see the person in question doesn’t mean you’re not going to get caught; I’ve heard people talking about friends of mine over coffee. (Steph you should call your boss, she knows about that thing you did.) (JK, Laura’s the one in trouble.)

Further inquiry

If I was to add to Aristotle’s three Qs above (because you know, Aristotle really needs improving by a 24 year old with a web platform) (“The blogs too are fond of a joke.” – Aristotle, 320 BCE), I would suggest that you ask yourself WHY you are telling the things you are telling to the person you are telling them to. What do you hope to achieve? As long as you know exactly what you’re doing (venting, working through a problem, asking for advice, etc.) and are cool with it, I say you’re not doing anything wrong. And no amount of Jersey Shore “You were talking shit behind my back” type accusations can change my mind on that. 

Try to make it useful

Sure it feels good to whine about your housemate’s dirty dishes problem or that girl your boyfriend is friends with that you just doooon’t knowwww if you truuuuust, but after a certain point it stops being useful to revisit over and over again without going anywhere. That’s the thing about gossip—if you’re not talking to the person in question, you’re not any closer to making the problem you’re whining about go away. Your friends don’t want to hear the same story over and over again either. Eventually you’re going to have to make a choice: to let it go and move on with your life, or to bring up the issue with the relevant person or people and talk about it face to face like grown ups, hopefully with some salient points gleaned from your prior gabfests. No need for code names at this stage. (That’s how you know you’re doing the right thing!) 

Intent is all

Spreading a rumour is not the same thing as having a bitchfest. If you’re whining to poison public opinion of someone you don’t like or with sneaky underhanded motives, these things have a way of biting people in the ass. Plus it makes you such a Regina George and people are going to start putting weight gaining bars in your lunch or whatever happens in Mean Girls. Here, as with literally anything in life you should ask yourself, WWTD—What Would Tina Do? Not be a sneaky bitch, that’s for sure. #FeyForever

Be nice to each other! Try to sort things out like adults but also if you want to take a bottle of Pinot to your best friend’s house and whine about your boss’ tyrannical “come in early on Saturdays” rule and also maybe her hideous-yet-practical footwear, I think that’s probably okay too. Anyway, off to go put every second sentence in brackets! (Seriously, what’s up with the parentheticals today?) (Byeeeee!)

Follow Monica on twitter: @monicaheisey

Read more of Monica’s Grown-Ass Woman guides on working from homeappearing wealthydealing with rude-osbeing sickgetting other people’s parents to like you,getting shit doneyour facesneak-cercise saying notwittertalking about your body anxietieshangover maintenancevintage clotheshow to have a long-distance relationshipsounding smart at cocktail parties, and packing to disappear.