A question for those out there who try and guard their tongues, but more apropos here, their ears!

When I hear loshon hara, I think to myself “I don’t want to hear this, but how do I say it?” It’s not always (ever) easy for me to straight out say “I do not want to hear or speak Loshon Hara.” Admittedly, I get a little uncomfortable saying that.

I have found, due to that the awkwardness, that I end up listening to Loshon Hara instead of saying anything that might be awkward, which is far worse.

So, MY community, my question to everyone is:

Have you found a way that you are comfortable telling a friend or family member that you do not want to hear or speak Loshon Hara without feeling uncomfortable?

P.S. I know an answer could be: “just tell them and don’t be uncomfortable!” If I could, and maybe one day, I would. However, I am looking for a way to say it that is easy and not awkward, but at the same time gets the point across that I am not interested in this conversation.

So... tell me what you say when you do not want to hear Loshon Hara!

Thank you!

  • 2
    This doesn't answer your question - but worthwhile to note, the Chafetz Chaim writes strongly that even if it is awkward and could jeopordize your relationship - even your job! - you are obligated to ensure you don't hear lashon hora. So while this question is very important - we would all be better at this if there was a comfortable way - it's equally imporatnt to remember that awkwardness is not an excuse.
    – chortkov2
    Commented May 12, 2021 at 17:08

2 Answers 2


Very practical question - thank you!

So there are a few good approaches that I have seen:

  1. Rav Yonny Sack here notes several effective methods:

If you already have close friends or family members who speak Lashon Hara often, you would be wise to gently approach the subject with them. A subtle and successful way to do this is to present the issue as something that you are personally trying to work on and ask them for their help in the matter. If done correctly, they should not feel judged by you but rather feel that you are asking their wise counsel and practical assistance in your own personal mission. The result will hopefully be a heightened sensitivity to Shmirat haLashon in your future conversations.

If you are speaking to a friend and they begin to speak Lashon Hara, you should ideally try and change the subject. To do this you could excitedly interrupt with some news that changes the subject; “Wait! I have to tell you something! I (insert some random news that will steer the conversation in a different direction). If this will not work, then you need to think to yourself: will this friend listen to me if I gently tell her I would rather not hear such things? If she will listen, or even if you are not sure about it, you have an obligation to stop her from saying the Lashon Hara1. You must be very gentle and sensitive in doing so. You could just say “Can we please rather speak about something else” or “wait, let’s think of a different topic to chat about”. Just be clear so they get the picture, but gentle so you don’t hurt them in the process. If they are someone who you know won’t stop so easily and will speak further negativity as a result of your attempt to stop them, then rebuke is forbidden and the best thing to do is leave the conversation. Go to the bathroom, make a phone call, do something to get out of the situation. If this is not an option, then you have no choice but to be strong; you can drift off mentally as they are talking (some people are good at this in non-Lashon hara situations anyway) but at least do not believe what is being said, don’t enjoy what is being said and don’t show your agreement with what is being said2.

  1. If you are concerned that the discussion will lead to Lashon Hara - do most the talking. Hamodia notes two stories that bring this out:

Harav Sorotzkin recounts that he heard from Harav Chaim Ozer Grodzenski that the Chofetz Chaim had a very unique system to ensure that he would not be exposed to hearing forbidden lashon hara. Whenever somebody approached him, he would immediately begin to discuss words of Torah and mussar with the individual until it was time for the conversation to end, and by actively filling the available time with the mitzvah of Torah study, a convenient side benefit was that there was no possibility of inappropriate gossip being shared.

Similarly, it is reported that somebody staying at an inn in Europe was told that the illustrious Chofetz Chaim and Gerrer Rebbe were both passing through the inn. Excited to receive their blessings, the man scanned the dining room until he saw a table with two elderly Rabbanim. Unsure about which was the Chofetz Chaim and which was the Gerrer Rebbe, the man observed the two Rabbanim for a few minutes and noticed that one of them was dominating the conversation and doing almost all the talking.

Knowing that the Chofetz Chaim was renowned for his concern about every word that came out of his mouth, he assumed that the Rav who was listening quietly must be the Chofetz Chaim and approached the table to greet him. To his surprise, the Rav replied that he was speaking to the wrong person, as the Chofetz Chaim was seated across the table. The embarrassed man explained that he was sure that the Rav doing most of the talking couldn’t possibly be the Chofetz Chaim. The Chofetz Chaim responded that people mistakenly assume that in order to avoid sinning in the area of forbidden speech, the only option is to refrain from talking. In reality, somebody who is fluent in the pertinent laws will know what he is permitted to say and will have no problem finding permissible subjects to discuss.

1 This is a mitzvah of Tochacha and is brought in the Chofetz Chaim numerous times. See Hil. Lashon Harah, clal 6, siif 5 and the Beer Mayim Chaim there in the name of Rabeinu Yona.

2 Ibid, siif 5.

  • +1 - 'present the issue as something that you are personally trying to work on and ask them for their help in the matter'. People are more positive and less offended if it doesn't come as a criticism.
    – chortkov2
    Commented May 12, 2021 at 17:12

I witnessed my son give the perfect repartee: "Can we talk about something else"?

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