Do you understand gossip? Do you take part in gossip? Do you ‘share’ information with others?
Wikipedia defines gossip as “idle talk or rumor, especially about personal or private affairs of others. It is one of the oldest and most common means of sharing facts, views and slander.”
The word gossip implies mean, malicious, negative talk. I’m told that this is true for only 5 – 7% of gossip.
Our mothers warned us to avoid gossip as it was destructive and unkind.
The American Psychological Association notes that researchers apply the term gossip to both positive and negative aspects of personal affairs and that, depending on the point of view, it can have positive or negative social effects.
Most people say they don’t gossip yet everyone does.
Technically, when information about people, events, businesses, government, and social groups is discussed in social interactions, it is gossip. Such exchanges occur everyday in families, among friends, at coffee shops, and at work. Gossip can include comments on what is in the news, the style of clothing being worn by someone, social trends, an upcoming event, or even the weather.
Understand Helpful Gossip
When gossip leads you to ‘right’ decisions it is helpful.
Hearing examples of other people’s unfortunate experiences with a certain course of action, or a consumer product or a type of service can serve to guide your decisions in similar situations or with consumer products.
Gossip in the form of ‘word of mouth’ directs you to certain types of businesses and leads you away from others with ‘shady’ reputations.
In the course of daily interactions we hear of shops with excellent products, we hear of hair dressers who give great haircuts, we hear of excellent medical procedures and practitioners for various ailments. We also learn to avoid those with poor reputations.
Gossip offers guidance in adapting to various life situations. It helps you to find out what’s going on around you. You learn about events in your community, good movies, interesting books, and popular restaurants by ‘word of mouth’ recommendations.
Gossip can warn us about inappropriate behaviour in groups to which we belong. Families, clubs, neighbourhoods and other social collectives have social norms with expectations about how we are to conduct ourselves. Sharing information about what is happening among members of a group shapes, monitors, and sanctions connections and relationships.
Harmful Effects of Gossip
We know too well the perverse effects of evil, hurtful and vindictive comments made with the intent of social exclusion or revenge. Most of us have direct experience with unfair or demeaning comments made by others.
As gossip spreads, errors, variations and embellishments occur. What may have begun as factual information becomes misinformation and quickly turns negative thus ruining friendships and destroying reputations.
‘Juicy’ gossip is often about personal matters such as love relationships, financial circumstances, health issues or other private matters. It often taps into our deepest fears and worries.
When gossip happens in the workplace, it breaks down teams, undermines reputations, and creates a culture of negativism. Idle talk about others can lead to indiscretions and even slander.
Internet gossip can turn into cyber-bullying with extreme consequences such as mental breakdowns and even suicide especially for young people.
How to Understand Gossip
1. Recognize negative gossip and switch it to positive gossip. Say nice things about others; look for the good; show appreciation; express optimism. Saying positive things enhances you and redirects the conversation.
2. Seek clarity and facts. Preempt and label speculation about the unknown. Identify assumptions especially if cited as truth. Check out information for accuracy before discussing or repeating it.
3. Be careful what you confide to others — especially online. Don’t put information on the internet that can damage your reputation. Don’t ‘over share’ photos or personal information. If you hear private information about someone, keep it private.
4. Keep conversation at a high level by talking about what people have done right. Develop a circle of supportive friends who don’t engage in negative gossip to make themselves feel important. Avoid people who have a ‘cutting tongue’ and who make vengeful and nasty comments about others.
Learning to understand gossip will help you to move beyond trivial and superficial conversations, it will help to avoid misinformation, and, most of all, it will help you to find positive and helpful information to elevate your life and to increase retirement happiness.