1 Good Reason to Gossip (and 5 Better Reasons Not to)

1 good reason to gossip--and 5 better reasons not to.

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?

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  1. Amber @ neuronmommy.com says:

    Great post! I wonder, when is it appropriate to talk about a friend/situation to other mutual friends? Sometimes friends experience the same concern or frustration (why is she dating this guy, why does she keep spending so much money when she doesn’t have a job, etc.). While it may not be our business, if we are all concerned and want to talk to her, it is ever ok to do so? This is where I get hung up sometimes.

  2. Hannah says:

    Bad news usually doesn’t need help getting around. There are natural consequences for the bad things we do, so someone in the wrong doesn’t usually need extra consequences heaped upon them. Besides, we all know gossip that’s passed around usually gets embellished. My Pastor’s wife, when confronted with gossip, simply asks, “Did you offer to help her?” or “You should tell her that you see that she’s wrong…she may not know.” That will stop it in its tracks! We women DO have an obligation to look out for each other. A real friend will go to the person ask the truth and reprove if necessary.

  3. Wow, what a reminder. It seems that we women need to be reminded. It is so easy to justify gossip. Having exprienced the pain that comes from being gossiped about and the consequences of my own gossip, I do not believe that any new found “benefits” of gossiping can outway the harm that this bad habit brings. Something we’ve been talking about with in my family lately is, “If you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say anything at all.” Thanks for reminding us of this important principle.

  4. Annie Kate says:

    Gossip destroys so many lives in so many ways.

    If the gossip is untrue, I protest and counter with the truth.
    If it may not be true, I point that out.

    In any case, I try to say something positive about the person, or if that is not possible, I try to excuse him or her, or if even that is not possible, I just suggest we change the topic.

    Often a firm and cheerful, “Yes, I know that person. She’s so great!” will stop potential gossipers in their tracks.

    And if not, I can usually leave, or go to the bathroom, or find something else to do.

    Great post!

    Annie Kate

  5. Sally says:

    Fascinating! I’d missed that study, but it makes sense that gossip would have such a serious impact on views and lives.

    And I love your outline of reasons why gossip is damaging and best avoided. Well said, lady!

  6. Chrysta says:

    Loved this post! I just posted an entry on working happier and mentioned that complaining doesn’t change anything, and more often than not makes the complainer feel unhappy and focus on unhappiness. I consider complaining and gossip a hair’s breadth apart.

  7. heatherA says:

    Ya know, gossip usually isolates a situation…”can you believe she wnet…”. But when it comes to US doing something gossip worthy, we hope and pray no one will notice or comment. It’s the same with sin in general. We accuse and blame and hold it against a person if they sin against us but when we sin ourselves we tend to reason it out… “but I tried..” Do you see it?

  8. sarah beals says:

    Wonderful post and so true. A good standard line for someone who is gossippy: “Oh, I could never believe THAT about her. She is so sweet.” Point made, and you were still pleasant with the offender. 🙂
    This is a great piece, Anne!

  9. Ginny says:

    Great post! I’ve always heard, “If you’re not part of the problem or part of the solution, then don’t share the info.” Sounds like a good rule-of-thumb to me.

  10. nikki says:

    What do you do when the gossip is about you and it’s all true even if it was all in the past and that it’s from two people who you trust with intimate details of yourself?

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