Here's one specific example:
PC was discussing other coworker, X. PC dished to the group that X got a divorce a few years back. Then within six months or almost immediately, X changed her name, moved to NY, and "completely changed" her identity. "You never hear about it because she never talks about it to anybody," PC tells us proudly. PC set off on a series of comments about how this must mean X was either crazy, or shady.
I look at my other coworkers. This news is surprise to all of us. My other coworkers have background in fraud investigations and police work. When they hear "name change," "relocation," and "refusal to discuss life before or why," those behaviors raise different flags for them. Certainly not flags of "shadiness" or "hiding from crime" or "being crazy."
Me, I have an aunt who did exactly what coworker X did. She's from my mom's side of the family and they're pretty nuts. Sometimes, I figure runaway aunt might be the sanest one of the lot. There's 8 of them.
So I'm sitting there thinking, I don't think people do that sort of thing for fun and if she doesn't want to talk about it she probably has a really good reason, and trading uncomfortable eye contact with my coworkers.
PC won't stop going on about it. It's clear she thinks this is very juicy, very engrossing gossip we must all want to speculate on. We don't.
And since PC's here with my other coworkers because she's tagging along with me, yeah I realize this is my responsibility to shut down. I see my coworkers are uncomfortable and I am too.
So I say ynno, probably what happened is none of our business. And, I've thought about doing exactly that too. PC pushes the scandalizing, surely-this-person-is-a-black-sheep narrative more. I say ynno, if i went through the bother of doing all that - changing my name, relocating to a totally different big anonymous city out of nowhere, clearly changing my life...if I did all that after a divorce...I probably didn't do that for fun, ynno?
Like maybe she had a reason for doing what she did? Like maybe that was a really bad divorce she went through. Maybe she had a really bad husband.
Or maybe, this is when I bring up my own angle, maybe her family sucks. Maybe she got fed up with their bullshit.
Or she just had been tired and tied down and wasn't anymore and she finally got to do what she wanted to do.
Maybe she always wanted her name to be X and just never had enough gumption to do it until then.
Probably, whyever reason she did it, it probably's not very salacious.
She works for a bank, we do bankground checks, I don't think she's hiding something.
I'm not saying this to silence, of course. PC is chiming in, my coworkers are chiming in, PC is toning down, my coworkers are agreeing with me. I'm not an idiot or overly confident about what I did there - I didn't solve the problem. I didn't stand up and say "How dare you," and since X wasn't there, it feels incorrect to claim I "stuck up" for her. She wasn't being directly victimized.
Then again, at this point, none of us know PC well enough to know if she's malicious, socially oblivious, or something else, either. We just know we're all coworkers, we're at a business dinner, PC is crossing lines for all the rest of us with her discussion, and we want that to stop and we want her to not repeat this behavior but with stories from other coworkers.
If a woman I work with divorced her husband and win 6 months reinvented herself, relocated, renamed herself, and all that - I don't care why she did it. I don't care if she had a mental breakdown - because unless you know for certain that's what happened, until that instant where she looks you in the eye and confirms she did all that frivolously and foolishly and not because, idk, her husband was abusive or became a stalker or she was in a real bad life situation at that time and she needed to restart, to get a fresh start -- I'm more inclined she did what she did because she had to, to protect herself, than because she overreacted to a little ol' breakup.
Sorry, is that just like the benefit of the doubt, or what? I don't want to speculate about something when it looks to me like a person probably did it to protect themselves.
And of course, this is a story. This is a retelling. It's not accurate in breath and quote, but it's accurate to what I remember. This is also the event (it was an uncomfortable dinner) where both my other coworkers thanked me/said they appreciated me stepping into the conversation the way I did, that they felt uncomfortable too, and in other words 2 independent witnesses corroborated my take on the evening. After that dinner, one of my coworkers expressed to management that the whole evening, what with PC's gossiping/PC's conversational tracks, had made them uncomfortable and that they felt PC was over the line. I don't know who, as the manager kept it anonymous in talking to me and honestly I don't care, both of them are awesome, but I know the only person who didn't feel uncomfortable that night was PC.
I know someone else complained because when my manager sought me out to ask if I had any experiences with PC, and I mentioned this event from this night -- my manager already knew about it.
That's what makes this a good example.
So, your call on how you feel about that, then.