I've had some serious stuff to handle over the last month or so. And it sadly wasn't the stuff you could keep easily quiet. To make things worse, the main actor that created this mess has apparently a notorious reputation and there's plenty of gossip about them to keep people talking about this for hours.
So, all the family, half the town, they all knew what was happening with me and wanting to gossip about this other person at me. And while I didn't mind them asking once in a while what was happening and how things were going, what did massively annoy me is that I did not figure out a way to get these conversations to stick to the facts.
I've had dozens of conversations with family and family friends, and they all went something like this: when asked for the current status of things, I would give people the list of facts. I would honestly tell them A, B and C had already happened and I was waiting on certain people/organisations to tell me about X, Y and Z. Just imagine someone rattling of a grocery list: That was me. After that not working a few times, I also started to add little sentences like 'And that's all I know for now' or 'I'll see what happens next, speculating only drives me crazy'.
Sadly, none of that worked. The conversations invariably ended up with the other person going "And what if..." or "I heard rumors that..." with some harebrained speculation on how bad things could potentially get or already are. I ended up handling these by trying to say that I didn't know what would happen if, only to have people speculate even further on what could happen if. I tried handling them by saying it is speculation and wouldn't be helpful, only to have people switch to another 'what-if'.
I think the breaking point for me was when someone said 'You seem stressed by all this' and then continued adding more what-ifs and gossip on worst outcomes. I wanted to strangle that person (don't worry, didn't do it.). At the same time, even plain out telling this person that yes I was stressed and could they please not add to it by speculating/gossiping didn't stop them.
To be clear, I don't mind the conversation continuing. But it should stick to the facts, which means the only way I can see one continuing is with someone asking me things like 'What does this term mean' or 'What is the process you just mentioned like' instead of gossiping or speculating about possible consequences.
Most of these conversations took place when randomly encountering family or family friends. Physically walking away from the conversation or bluntly ending it with 'If you're going to gossip or speculate I'm going to go now' isn't an option, as that would be perceived as rude instead of polite.
So, given my previous approaches and them not working, apart from physically walking away from the conversation to signify it is over, what can I do better to make a conversation stick to the facts and not degrade into gossip and speculation?