We all do it: Why people gossip and when it can be positive
It is generally believed that gossip is synonymous with malicious rumors. But it’s actually very natural behavior - an integrated part of communication, information sharing, and community building. It does not necessarily represent something negative, it can be positive or neutral
Photo Credits: Ben White/Unsplash
An old proverb says ‘If you have nothing nice to say, you better shut up’! And yet, despite that, everyone is gossiping. No matter what the environment is, when information is shared, either in a family circle or in group conversations with friends, it is inevitable that whoever is talking is, in fact, talking about other people.
Gossip doesn’t necessarily have to be negative
It is generally believed that gossip is synonymous with malicious rumors. But the broader definition says it’s like ‘talking about other people who aren’t present’.
" It's actually a very natural behavior for us - an integrated part of communication, information sharing, and community building. It doesn't have to be something negative, it can be positive or neutral, "said David Ludden, a professor in the psychology department at Georgia Gwinnett and author of The Psychology of Language.
Two years ago, in an analysis published in the journal 'Social Psychology and Personality Science', it was revealed that 467 participants spend 52 minutes a day gossiping, and 3/4 of that gossip is of the neutral type. For example, one respondent talked about someone who constantly watched a lot of movies to be informed about current events.
Only a small part of the analyzed interviews, approximately 15% of them, referred to negative gossip (while positive gossip included an even smaller percentage - only 9%). The fact is that people can spend a lot of time talking about colleagues, but it is often considered a positive chatter.
What forms of gossip should be avoided?
There are several forms of gossip that should be avoided, such as gossip that starts from malicious intent and does not serve a purpose. For example, mean comments about someone’s appearance. In that case, no one learns from this experience and no one benefits from it.
There is a distinction that distinguishes between active and passive participation in gossip. When participants have heard that the other person is behaving unacceptably, or when they feel injustice, their heart rate increases. On the other hand, when they could actively gossip about a person or situation, it calmed them down and reduced their heart rate. From this, it can be concluded that the gossip process itself, 'helps to calm the body'.
But gossip can encourage collaboration by spreading important information. When people say, “Your reputation follows you,” it’s because they’ve heard gossip about that person. But spreading info that you know is fake - there is no social benefit in that.
Bringing together those who gossip about others
Gossip also says something about people’s relationships with others. “To gossip means to be close to these people,” explains Stacy Torres, an assistant professor in the sociology department at the University of California. She studied gossip in adults and noticed that ‘ there is closeness’ in sharing experiences and feelings when you are on the same wavelength with a particular person.
Her research has shown that gossip can prevent loneliness, and others have confirmed that it also simplifies the rapprochement of those who gossip and serves as a form of entertainment for many.
Therefore, keep talking. But when a conversation starts to turn into gossip, which is inevitable, remember that it can also have positive effects and that something good can come out of it (of course, only if your intentions are sincere).
By: Amber V. - Gossip Whispers