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Dinner Party Gossip - The Good, The Bad and The Ugly!
My do's and don'ts of modern dinner-party gossip
Your table looks perfect and the dinner you’ve prepared smells wonderful. You're looking forward to sipping some delicious wine and enjoying clever conversation with your dinner party guests. But what you won't have reckoned for is where the conversation may stray later that evening.
At a dinner party recently I suddenly heard one guest detailing the affair that a friend of hers was having. Hardly appropriate dinner-party conversation when some of the other guests knew the woman in question. A little discretion would’ve been called for in knowing such hot gossip and letting others in on it. Undoubtedly The Gossip wanted to score some social points for being in the know.
And also such is the way of the world with our “confessional” attitudes to all aspects of our lives. The Gossip in question obviously thought nothing of sharing the intimate details of someone else's dirty laundry. However I know for a fact it left a bad taste in the hostess’s mouth, who complained about it to me the next day on the phone.
With such experiences in mind, here's the “Good Guests Guide to Dinner-party Gossip”:
Personal Details About Other People's Lives -
The Don’ts - As per my example you need to think why you'd want to share gossip about another person’s private life. It's one thing between best friends who confide "secrets" to each other and share such things. It's quite another to get a megaphone and broadcast things someone has told you, or you’ve found out about, to the whole wide world. The rule is don't share such things unless someone has told you it's fine to do so.
The Do’s - If on the other hand, say, an affair has led to a break-up and the couple you know are divorcing then it’s probably pretty much common knowledge. There probably won't be any harm done from a little bit of gossip about how far down the line their divorce is. However, always be aware of the other guests and how their lives might cross with the people you want to gossip about.
The Don’ts - Never share information someone has given you about a medical condition of theirs. They may want to keep that private and it's their right to do so. Also it's a big No-No at a dinner party to discuss gory medical details - and that applies to your own ailments, too. You don't want to put fellow diners off their dinner!
The Dos - If everyone around the table is sharing "bad back" stories then it's fine to share yours but divulging all about your personal medical worries is not. Where someone has told you about a condition - and you know they wouldn't mind you sharing it - then by all means do so if someone says they’re experiencing that same condition. Just do so without naming the person you know - that takes it into the realms of gossip again.
The Don’ts - We all love to hear what someone else is earning, what their bonus is, how much in debt they are, etc. But that doesn't mean it's right to gossip about it! Steer clear of gossiping about the financial highs and lows of others. And beware of any mention of your own finances that sounds like boasting.
The Dos - Without getting into actual figures it's absolutely fine to gossip about someone, say, getting a fantastic mortgage rate with another mortgage-company. Or that they made an investment that paid off - just don't discussion how much.
The Don’ts - Haven't we all been there when the person next to us says something like, "Well, Debbie's husband Jonathan has this extraordinary habit of…” It can make you feel quite queasy - and wonder how they know. It should be a lesson in not to gossip about other people's quirks and weird little habits.
The Dos - Little anecdotes about minor mishaps are absolutely fine to share. Like gossiping about your friend who set fire to something in their oven or accidentally cut off their electricity. These are amusing rather than damaging.
The Don’ts - Some people will experience a sort of schadenfreude when divulging juicy gossip about the bad behaviour of other people's children. Resist this! You should never finger-point at other people's children, no matter how much you'd love to. Usually people see through this - that you’re trying to make your own children shine more and that's very unattractive!
The Dos - It's fine to share gossip about other people's children doing well - like getting into their first choice of school.
The Don’ts - You might assume that by gossiping about someone else's disastrous dinner-party or poor quality culinary skills that it will endear you to your hosts. Quite the opposite - they'll assume that you’ll be gossiping about their dinner party the next time you're out.
The Dos - As long as you're not seen to be blowing someone else's horn more than your hosts (they’ll also take umbrage to that!) it's fine to gossip about pleasant evenings you've had elsewhere.
Finally, if you’re with a very tight-knit group of friends you can gossip until the cows come home about anything you wish. Simply exercise self-control over the gratuitous details you may wish to share when other guests are added into the equation. And obviously if someone has sworn you to secrecy about something they've confided, you should keep their secret.
Published in The Express Newspaper
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