A few situations in my life have recently got me thinking about gossip. I have lain awake at night wondering how gossip can spread itself amongst friends, grow and change picking up dirt and dust as it travels, growing into sometimes such a different beast and ultimately causing such hurt.
Why do we find it titillating to find out information about people? What is it about gossip that people thrive on? We know the information given cannot be the whole truth, right?
Women (and men by the way) do love to gossip. I hear it all around me. I choose not to get involved unless it is to do with a friend then I might intervene. I am not blameless, I know how easy it is to get drawn in to others’ lives especially if my own is not so titillating at that moment!
- No matter how strong a person is, words DO HURT them
- As much as we beg, “Please don’t tell, this is just between you and me” it always gets back to the individual.
- It’s natural for people to talk negatively about others: According to an article in Psychologies Magazine, gossip builds social bonds because shared dislikes create stronger bonds than shared positives. Two people who don’t know each other will feel closer if they share something mean about a third person than if they say nice things about them. It’s a way of demonstrating their shared values and sense of humour. Add to that the thrill of transgression, since we’re supposed to be nice and positive.
- It comes in all forms, its not just the celebrity gossip that keeps the entertainment world going, it is not just whispers in the classroom, it is all negative words that come out of one person’s mouth about another person. However much we may disapprove of gossip in theory, it’s very common behaviour, says social psychologist Laurent Bègue. “About 60 per cent of conversations between adults are about someone who isn’t present, and most of these are passing judgement.” That is staggering isn’t it?
- Use your filter!…..it can be stopped, but only by filtering your own words thoughtfully. If I need to discuss a situation I am worried about I use my loved one, knowing he will not pass anything I say on, I use him as my sounding board. But I don’t participate in negative conversations about anyone with him or anyone else. It zaps me of energy and boy does it keep me awake at night.
Chinese whispers (or telephone in the United States) is a game played around the world, in which one person whispers a message to another, which is passed through a line of people until the last player announces the message to the entire group. Errors typically accumulate in the retellings, so the statement announced by the last player differs significantly, and often amusingly, from the one uttered by the first. Reasons for changes include anxiousness or impatience, erroneous corrections, and that some players may deliberately alter what is being said to guarantee a changed message by the end of the line. – Wikipedia
To me that is all that gossip is, Chinese whispers. Its’ a risky business gossiping, what if the information is incorrect? Gossiping about each other can lead to distrust amongst friends, awkward feelings and suspicion about one another. Who is right? Who is wrong? Once a person’s reputation is damaged it’s hard to reverse that.
Interestingly, research shows that we judge negative information to be more revealing than positive facts, and that we retain it better!
Does gossiping perhaps make us feel better about ourselves? Open us up to friendships as we indulge in gossip about another? Would it help give us more confidence if we were being unfairly treated to perhaps pass on the gossip to another helping us feel less like the victim in that instance?
Yes perhaps. But I urge you to look at yourselves next time you hear gossip. Think about what you know of the person being gossiped about and make your own judgements. If you hear malicious gossip about a friend stop the chain of gossip and talk to them. Don’t let if fester, grow and change. Then whoever the gossip was about is able to put things right, no matter what was said, and hey they may just honour your friendship with them that little bit more knowing someone had their backs.
You see, if you weren’t in the room would the gossip be about you?
“Strong minds discuss ideas, average minds discuss events, weak minds discuss people”. —Socrates