My friend is a gossip. Should I dump her?; Dilemmas

VIRGINIA'S ADVICE

Truly good people don't gossip. I'm certain the Dalai Llama never picks up his telephone, tucking his feet under his robes, and starts: "My dear, I simply must tell you..." Discretion is a sign of saintliness. Recently, I burst out with a torrent of unkind gossip about a friend to a mutual friend who is exceptionally nice and good. At the end of the story, which I'd made very funny, instead of capping it all, as I'd hoped, with another dunghill of bile and indiscretions, all he did was smile and, in a kindly and compassionate way, say: "Dear, darling old Sheila. She never changes, does she?" I felt like a creep.

Gossip, too, is a two-way process, which is also why Karen should be wary of keeping this woman as a friend. You can't take gossip and a) not dish it out, and b) expect the gossip not to gossip about you behind your back.

If you're prepared to listen to someone spilling secrets, she (and it's usually a she) will want to hear you spilling secrets back. You can't have a one-sided goss. Because after the major gossip has sicked out this week's indiscretions, she nearly always snuggles down in the chair, lights up a cigarette and says: "Right, that's me. Now - you." "Oh, er, nothing much" won't wash. You find yourself dredging some mental cesspit in order to give something back. No doubt Karen's been feeling a bit bad herself, playing up to her friend, because she's found herself also behaving like a gossip.

Then, of course, Karen's right. If her friend unburdens to her things that she's been told in confidence, then there's no way that anything she tells her friend in confidence will remain secret for more than five minutes. Protestations of "But you're different, you're my friend!" mean absolutely nothing to a gossip who, like an alcoholic trying to get a drink, will lie with no compunction just to get the fix of another broken confidence. The urge to gossip is a desperate method to try to keep popular. If you always know the inside story, people will want you around.

And your friends will usually be wary of making an enemy of you, because you know all their innermost secrets. Gossip binds your circle to you like unspoken blackmail.

Some people may suggest that Karen has a frank discussion with her friend before breaking off. But it won't achieve anything, except another round of phone-calls to other friends. "Do you know what Karen just did? She told me I was a gossip, isn't that a cheek..." Karen hasn't used the word "compulsive" before "gossip" for nothing. You might as well sit down and have a "good talk" with a paedophile. It won't change a thing.

In nearly all cases, gossip is a betrayal of trust. Trust is the basis of any good relationship. I think Karen will have to move on. You can't have a part-time relationship with a gossip, or try to keep your distance. Just by listening to the stuff you're party, somehow, to the betrayal that is involved.

I'm no saint. Like drinking, I adore gossiping. But sometimes I wake up with a gossip hangover of shame and resolve to try not to do it again. And, like an alcoholic who tries to keep out of bars, the more I keep away from gossips the better, ultimately, it is for me. I think Karen is starting to feel gossip is too dangerous for her. Unfortunately, that usually means withdrawing from the other players in the gossip game as well.

READERS' SUGGESTIONS

Put her on the back burner

Your friend clearly does not understand the basis of "friendship". By her own indiscreet actions in betraying your trust, she has redefined her relationship with you and, in so doing, invalidated the privilege of being close to you.

I'd be inclined to put her on the back burner and let her chew over such confidences as which muesli you have chosen to buy and which colour garment you might wear.

You have known this person for a long time but, sadly, she seems to have become (or continued to be) a gossip. Perhaps the friendship has reached its natural conclusion. Don't try to keep warm a moribund relationship: move on.

MARTYN LLOYD

Waldringfield, Woodbridge

Change your attitude to her

Karen's understanding has increased. She has learned that gossip can be experienced in several ways; some fun, others hurtful and damaging. What is important seems to be one's perspective of the gossip. It must be difficult to have any sort of trust in someone who promises not to tell but is unable to keep that promise. Karen's ill-ease points to dissatisfaction of her own.

Maybe it is time to change her attitude towards her friend in order to move on. Any change may or may not by reciprocated, but what has she to lose? It can be beneficial to meet new friends. The sooner she does meet new friends, the quicker she will have old ones. Diversity could mean less reliance on others who upset her.

NICHOLAS E GOUGH

Swindon, Wiltshire

You need a taste of reality

If we are usually judged by the company we keep, by your comments I see that you are very slow in summing up character. Of course we all talk about another person just a little. It's so much easier to mention things which annoy you to someone else you know, but if I find myself doing this, I feel I should also speak tactfully, or even jokingly to the person concerned so that problems can be ironed out.

Quite different is making silly mischief and feigning secrecy.

Should you move on, you say. For heaven's sake, go and milk cows woman, go and clean someone's windows for them, or go and work with handicapped children who need their bottom's wiping. Dealing with these kinds of dirt will teach you what life's all about, and you might even wake up radiantly happy one morning.

MS RITA SKEELS

(no address given)

Next Week's Dilemma

Dear Virginia,

We have two boys of eight and nine and they're increasingly asked to stay over at friends' houses, which they both enjoy very much.

The problem is that we have very strong views about what they should and shouldn't watch on television, and we never let them watch anything that is on after nine o'clock.

However, the friends that they stay with nearly all have television in their bedrooms which they are allowed to watch unregulated. Recently, my son let slip that he'd watched a very violent film on video until midnight.

Should I ring their parents and explain the situation?

Yours sincerely,

Penny

Anyone with advice quoted will be sent a bouquet from . Send letters and dilemmas to Virginia Ironside at `The Independent', 1 Canada Square, Canary Wharf, London E14 5DL, fax 0171-293 2182; or e-mail dilemmas@ Independent.co.uk, giving a postal address so that we can send a bouquet

Arts and Entertainment
Ellie Levenson’s The Election book demystifies politics for children
bookNew children's book primes the next generation for politics
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell Williams' “Happy” was the most searched-for song lyric of 2014
musicThe power of song never greater, according to our internet searches
Arts and Entertainment
Roffey says: 'All of us carry shame and taboo around about our sexuality. But I was determined not to let shame stop me writing my memoir.'
books
Arts and Entertainment
Call The Midwife: Miranda Hart as Chummy

tv Review: Miranda Hart and co deliver the festive goods

Arts and Entertainment
The cast of Downton Abbey in the 2014 Christmas special

tvReview: Older generation get hot under the collar this Christmas

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Transformers: Age of Extinction was the most searched for movie in the UK in 2014

film
Arts and Entertainment
Mark Ronson has had two UK number two singles but never a number one...yet

music
Arts and Entertainment
Clara Amfo will take over from Jameela Jamil on 25 January

radio
Arts and Entertainment
This is New England: Ken Cheeseman, Ann Dowd, Frances McDormand and Richard Jenkins in Olive Kitteridge

The most magnificently miserable show on television in a long timeTV
Arts and Entertainment
Andrea Faustini looks triumphant after hearing he has not made it through to Sunday's live final

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Rhys says: 'I'm not playing it for laughs, but I have learnt that if you fall over on stage, people can enjoy that as much as an amazing guitar solo'
musicGruff Rhys on his rock odyssey, and the trouble with independence
Arts and Entertainment
Krysia and Daniel (Hand out press photograph provided by Sally Richardson)
How do today's composers answer the challenge of the classical giant?
News
Shenaz Treasurywala
film
News
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Watkins as Christopher Jefferies
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Star Wars Director JJ Abrams: key character's names have been revealed
film
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell Williams won two BBC Music Awards for Best Song and International Artist
music
Arts and Entertainment
Mark, Katie and Sanjay in The Apprentice boardroom
TV
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    War with Isis: The West needs more than a White Knight

    The West needs more than a White Knight

    Despite billions spent on weapons, the US has not been able to counter Isis's gruesome tactics, says Patrick Cockburn
    Return to Helmand: Private Davey Graham recalls the day he was shot by the Taliban

    'The day I was shot by the Taliban'

    Private Davey Graham was shot five times during an ambush in 2007 - it was the first, controversial photograph to show the dangers our soldiers faced in Helmand province
    Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

    Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

    Many flyers are failing to claim compensation to which they are entitled, a new survey has found
    The stories that defined 2014: From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions

    The stories that defined 2014

    From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
    Stoke-on-Trent becomes first British city to be classified as 'disaster resilient' by the United Nations

    Disaster looming? Now you know where to head...

    Which British city has become the first to be awarded special 'resilience' status by the UN?
    Finally, a diet that works: Californian pastor's wildly popular Daniel Plan has seen his congregation greatly reduced

    Finally, a diet that works

    Californian pastor's wildly popular Daniel Plan has seen his congregation greatly reduced
    Say it with... lyrics: The power of song was never greater, according to our internet searches

    Say it with... lyrics

    The power of song was never greater, according to our internet searches
    Professor Danielle George: On a mission to bring back the art of 'thinkering'

    The joys of 'thinkering'

    Professor Danielle George on why we have to nurture tomorrow's scientists today
    Monique Roffey: The author on father figures, the nation's narcissism and New Year reflections

    Monique Roffey interview

    The author on father figures, the nation's narcissism and New Year reflections
    Introducing my anti-heroes of 2014

    Introducing my anti-heroes of 2014

    Their outrageousness and originality makes the world a bit more interesting, says Ellen E Jones
    DJ Taylor: Good taste? It's all a matter of timing...

    Good taste? It's all a matter of timing...

    It has been hard to form generally accepted cultural standards since the middle of the 19th century – and the disintegration is only going to accelerate, says DJ Taylor
    Olivia Jacobs & Ben Caplan: 'Ben thought the play was called 'Christian Love'. It was 'Christie in Love' - about a necrophiliac serial killer'

    How we met

    Olivia Jacobs and Ben Caplan
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's breakfasts will revitalise you in time for the New Year

    Bill Granger's healthy breakfasts

    Our chef's healthy recipes are perfect if you've overindulged during the festive season
    Transfer guide: From Arsenal to West Ham - what does your club need in the January transfer window?

    Who does your club need in the transfer window?

    Most Premier League sides are after a striker, but here's a full run down of the ins and outs that could happen over the next month
    The Last Word: From aliens at FA to yak’s milk in the Tour, here’s to 2015

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    From aliens at FA to yak’s milk in the Tour, here’s to 2015