Gossip based on kind thoughts (“Did you hear about lucky Helen’s handsome new boyfriend?”) generally is harmless. But: When comments about other women get slyly malicious or when spite hides behind humor, people can get hurt. Such cattiness is predominantly a female trait (men tend to be more direct in their put-downs). What to do when…

You catch yourself being catty. Resist the urge to continue speaking nastily. Gloating about a rival (“My ex’s new wife has gotten fat!”) may feel satisfying momentarily, but it actually reflects your own insecurities. Or, do your claws come out when you’re angry with a friend? Instead of making snide remarks to third parties to get them on your side, resolve your differences by speaking directly to your friend.

Catty remarks about others are made to you. Gossipers may feel that they need to be nasty to get attention or seem superior. Do not be drawn in. Instead, politely say that you like to concentrate on people’s positive traits, then change the topic.

Spiteful comments are about you. Refuse to be hurt if you learn that you’re the object of a “cat attack.” Remember: Meanness often stems from jealousy (over your good looks, great job or sweet kids, for instance). Avoid acquaintances who tear others down…stick with supportive friends who build each other up.

Related Articles