I’ve always had a very easy road in life when it came to gossip. I was never the person who had vicious rumors spread about them, nor was I the person who did much to end up in the weekly gossip cycle. I was a goody-goody and a loud mouth, and if a rumor was ever spread about me, I chose to ignore it and move on. Of course, that’s relatively easy to say when I cannot even recall the worst rumor spread about me, let alone any of the insignificant ones, because to be honest, they were all insignificant.

It was nice to never really worry that the whispers and laughs that sounded when I walked by were about me. It was nice to know that I had done nothing that would constitute gossip material. It was nice to know that I was safe from hidden ridicule.

The problem was that others were not safe from me.

I gossiped constantly; in fact it was like a social engagement. When I went to a friend’s house for the night or out to dinner with me family it was always other people who came up in our conversations. I remember going to my friend’s house and being more excited for the gossip, than for spending time with my friend. It was expected, guaranteed even, that a Friday night sleepover was a haven for all the gossip that had happened over the previous week.

This year, however, I went through a very tumultuous self-assessment period. I think that it was due mainly to my being thrust into a very new environment, where I didn’t have the people that I usually have to lean on, and I had to depend solely on myself. It was self-assessment spurned by the unknown, from the discomfort of feeling out of place, and from the quick realization of just how many wonderful people there were in the world. I met so many new people this year, people who were intellectual, kind, and welcoming, but one thing they were not was gossipers. It was then that I really started to look at myself and realize that I wanted to be everything that these new friends were. Knowing this and experiencing it made for the perfect recipe of self-critique. I realized that there were, and continue to be, many things about myself that I don’t like, and that I knew I needed to fix — one of the most important being my tendency to gossip. Gossiping had become more than an activity for me, it had become almost a need. I loved it, I waited for it, I would get so very excited to hear about all the rumors and all the terrible or humiliating things that others had done.

It was horrible, my hunt for gossip. I went searching within conversations to find just the right thing to say, the right direction to take that would lead someone to telling me the gossip that they knew. It was as if I felt entitled to know about other’s misfortunes or bad mistakes because I wasn’t the one making them, because I was the girl who didn’t do those things. I felt better than them, more put together than them, and so I gossiped. I went and told anyone who was interested about all the new information that I had gleaned through my conversations.

It was through my self-assessment that I realized the unbelievable hypocrisy and harm that went along with my gossiping, with the very act I had thought so harmless. I knew that I wouldn’t want rumors circulating about me, whispers spreading through the hallways. The mere thought of it made me sick, to think that others would be so callous in their judgments of my deeds.

I knew I had to stop gossiping, and I was determined to do just that. And that’s easy to say in the moment, when you’re so caught up in your own thoughts and mind, when you think that everyone will appreciate your no-gossip life strategy, but it’s not really easy to do. There’s no admiration, there’s no golden path of righteousness that I get to walk on because I try not to gossip, it’s hard. It’s so impossibly hard not to gossip. Gossiping is considered so normal, so everyday, it’s ingrained in our society, it always has been, and it is rare to find a person who doesn’t participate in it. I had trouble at the start, falling into my normal pits of failure, stumbling along the way, but now it seems easier, because I followed these six tips. If you know that you don’t want to continue gossiping, if you feel guilty every time you do, if you’re sick of being the hypocrite, then follow these suggestions, and the journey may just be a bit easier.

Find a friend:

This is the very first thing I did when I decided to stop gossiping; I found someone to go along with me on the journey. Pick a friend, any friend, but pick one that can help hold you accountable, that can keep you on the right path, and that you can do the same for. When one of you starts off a conversation about that girl in class who really upset you, then the other can slow you down and remind you that it doesn’t really matter in the end, that gossiping about her isn’t going to help anything. This system of accountability will make sure you don’t fall off that gossip cliff again, and it will help you not feel so alone amongst those who do.

Leave the room:

This one is simple, and I’m sure you’ve heard it before many times. If someone is gossiping, just walk away, leave the room, don’t even put yourself in a position where you could contribute to it. By removing the temptation completely, there will be no risk of your curiosity getting the best of you, no chance of needing clarification, of propelling someone to continue their gossiping, of taking part in it. This method is simple, yet effective. Claim you have to use the bathroom, or call your parents, maybe just go home, just try to get yourself out of the situation, without making the gossiper feel awkward or angry.

Don’t encourage it:

If you can’t leave the room, if you’re riding in a car, or you’re the only one there and don’t know where to go, the easy way to make sure you don’t gossip is to not encourage the other person. Don’t nod and agree, don’t offer insight into the situation, just listen. When they finish what they were saying simply change the subject. Even if they address you directly, asking for your opinion a smart way to get out of it is to say something along the lines of: “I’m not really sure but did you catch the new episode of New Girl that was on last night? I think Nick and Jess might get back together soon!” By changing the subject to something that you both like, or that you’re really excited about, you can avoid the awkwardness of no gossiping, and hopefully talk about something super important, like whether or not Nick and Jess will really get back together. (Fingers crossed.)

Simply tell them:

Maybe you’ve tried everything. Maybe you’ve gone to the bathroom three times in the last half hour, or talked about all six of your favorite Netflix series, maybe they’re just insanely insistent on gossiping with you. At points like these the best idea is to just fess up. Tell them that you’re trying to stop gossiping, and that you feel uncomfortable participating. It may be awkward; they may look at you funny, or say a few mean things, but in the end just rock that no gossip streak, don’t doubt yourself.

Help yourself before you help others:

If you’re finding it hard to stick to your no gossiping rules, the thing to do is remember how often you fail. Remember how many mistakes you’ve made, or things that you’ve said that you regret. Remember the way it felt when someone else spread a rumor about you, remember that sour feeling in your stomach and the way your heart thumped against your chest when you realized someone was talking about you. Remember that you’re human, just like that girl who dated three boys last semester, or that girl who cheated on her math test. Just remember that you’re not perfect, just like everyone else isn’t perfect, and that before you judge others, take a look at yourself.

Be kind and be happy:

This is a motto that I’ve been using lately. It’s something that I aspire to do everyday, because it’s the kind of attitude that makes me feel alive, that makes me feel more like me. Constantly remember to be kind, because being kind means not spreading that rumor, it means loving others, despite their imperfections. Being kind means being happy. By following this instinct you can easily stop gossiping, if you just think about how everyone deserves to be treated with kindness, then you’ll think less of what they did last week.

I know that not gossiping is hard. Believe me, I know. I slip up on my path to a gossip-free life even now. Sometimes I still gossip, because old habits die hard, and when you live in a world where gossiping is everyday, where it’s normal, it’s hard to stop. But you can do it. I can do it. We can be a positive light in this world, by not participating in gossiping we are actively choosing not to harm others, to not hurt them through our words, and isn’t that beautiful?

(Images via Shutterstock, here, here, here, here, here, and here.)