Monday, March 05, 2007

What do people say about you?

We all talk about people. This is not meant to be a derogatory statement but just sheer fact that everyday we talk about other people for a variety of reasons. After leaving dinner with friends the other night, my husband and I went on with our usual post evening out banter; so and so looking like they’ve lost weight, so and so getting a nice haircut and can you really believe so and so are having a baby. Suddenly, the idle chatter turned serious when my husband posed the question, “What do you think people say about us?” It had never really hit me that others might include me in their conversations like we chatted about others.

Thinking people are talking about you constantly displays a certain level of paranoia or narcissism, but thinking no one ever talks about you is na├»ve. Unless you live under a rock, chances are someone says something about you on any given day. It suddenly felt weird to think that there are conversations that occur daily where I am the topic and I don’t know anything about it. I felt very exposed and vulnerable as I racked my brain for every given thing people could say about me.

If you have friends, family, neighbors or co-workers then you are most certainly the topic of a conversation somewhere. Chances are there are total strangers in your life who have mentioned you to their friends and family, if not by name then by some other feature that makes you stand out. We have all had those conversations where we mention someone random who made an impression on us, either positively or negatively. I know in the past few days I have talked about a 6 foot 1 stunning 14 year old girl who I see getting coffee with her dad every morning, my mechanic who has changed car dealerships and a female in a pink snowsuit who we couldn’t figure out if she was a child or an adult. It is this randomness that we all are guilty of that has me wondering would talk about if I was the topic of their conversation.

Parents are always telling their children they shouldn’t care what people say about them, the whole "sticks and stones might break your bones but names will never hurt me" philosophy, but the reality is words do hurt and we do care what people say about us. It is weird to think that total strangers might mention you to others, your friends might gossip about you, your mother talks about you to everyone she meets and your name could become part of your co-workers dinner conversation with their spouse. We are each more “famous” then we think and somehow have effected the lives of others in such ways that we become conversational topics. Ultimately, we can’t stop people from talking about us, but we can impact how people talk about us.

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