Did you hear the news last week that gossip is actually good for you? According to researchers, hearing gossip helps us make savvy choices out in the real world. If we know the dirt on people–who’s likely to help us, who’s likely to do us harm–we can use that information to make better decisions about our interpersonal relationships. And it’s a lot faster to gain that knowledge through hearsay than from personal experience.
The surprising impact of gossip on our (literal) view of people
The study found that hearing negative gossip about a person actually alters the way we see them, visually. Says researcher Lisa Feldman Barrett, “We are hardwired to pay more attention to a person if we’ve been told they are dangerous or dishonest or unpleasant.”
No doubt mental health professionals can put this information to good use. But for the rest of us–don’t even think about justifying gossip! Accomplished women do not talk trash about others so that they can get ahead. And they don’t listen to those who do.
Think you’re not guilty of gossip? Well, maybe that’s true. But I’d challenge you to review these 6 dodges for pretending you’re not gossiping when you really are just to be sure.
Kind speech is a better option
For those of us who need encouragement, here are 5 excellent reasons to not gossip:
1. Gossip actually changes the way we see people.
This is profound–and scary. It’s a good reason to be very choosy about what kind of information you’ll listen to–and what kind of information you’ll share with others.
2. Gossip produces long-term unhappiness.
A good gossip session can be pleasurable at the time, but that feeling of camaraderie and being in-the-know doesn’t last, and soon gives way to guilt. Over the long-term gossip makes everyone unhappy.
3. Gossip makes you look bad.
When you gossip about others, your listeners perceive you to have whatever qualities you are attributing to others. So if you’re criticizing someone for being irresponsible, your hearers will perceive you to have that same flaw. (This phenomenon is known as spontaneous trait transference–and it applies to positive comments as well.)
4. People won’t trust you if you gossip.
If you’re gossiping to someone, it’s not much of a stretch for them to imagine you gossiping about them.
5. Gossip is just not nice (but you already knew that).
If you do hear gossip, let it end with you. Choose a kinder subject, and move on.
Your turn! Do you think gossip serves a purpose? Have another reason not to gossip? How do you change the subject when the conversation gets critical?