Gossip. It is so high school. We mature, cultured and interesting young professionals surely have more important things to talk about and ways to spend our precious time than gossiping, right? Whether you are the gossiper or the subject of gossip (for reasons good and bad) it is extremely prevalent in cities across the country, especially in small young professional circles. In fact, out of the 10 young professionals surveyed, 7 admitted to indulging in behaviour considered “gossiping’ (see below) in the past week. Gossip has the power to ruin reputations and save boring and awkward dinner conversations alike. With the Internet and social media, gossip can be spread in an instant. So, do you fit into the ranks of gossip royalty? If you do, it may be the byproduct of something much deeper.
It is impossible to avoid discussions of the lives and actions of others. But at what point does conversation move to unproductive gossip? In its basic definition, gossip is the idle banter about the personal lives of others; it is an indulgent exchange of trivial information. It is not gossip if one expresses concern over the safety of another due to substance abuse, physical abuse, emotional instability or mistreatment at the hands of another person. Likewise, it is not gossip if one chooses to warn a friend or family member about a potential business partner or mate whom they know to have a history of deceit or being untrustworthy. It is gossip if the information serves no productive or constructive purpose.
Why We Do it
In general, psychological studies have proven that the reason people gossip is from the feeling of superiority that results from the malicious spreading of information. The gossiper may feel superior because he/she feels that they have exclusive information to offer that the other person does not have (knowledge is power) and also because, by gossiping about someone else, the gossiper feel as if he/she is better than the subject of the gossip. Especially among couples, one counterpart may gossip to make themselves appear more worthy to the other person. The subliminal message behind “she is a slut, I heard she hooked up with so and so” in a relationship actually means, “I am so much better than that girl because I would never act like that. You’re so lucky to be with me.”
Whether we admit it or not, gossiping can stem from jealousy. When someone feels jealous or threatened by someone else, he or she may gossip about the other person in order to feel better about him or herself or to turn others against the other person. Perhaps difficult to admit, jealousy itself stems from lack of self-confidence. Insecurity breeds jealousy, jealousy breeds gossip.
In some cases, the source of gossip doesn’t even have to be rooted in deeper seeded personal issues. People may gossip because they don’t in fact have anything better to discuss. They are the feeble-minded type of gossipers. This type of gossiping may arise in awkward situations when the conversation is lacking or when the participants in the conversation are not connecting on anything.
How Bad Are You?
You may just fit the ranks of gossip royalty if you answer yes to the following criteria:
– You relish in being the one to “break the news” when hearing something private about someone else.
– You often lack emotional empathy when learning of a scandal in someone’s personal life, family, marriage, work, etc, and are quick to share the information with others.
– Feel vengeful and take pleasure in the misfortunes and shortcomings of people you know.
– Put others down to make you look better.
– Enjoy making fun of others to be praised for your humour.
– Don’t have many lifelong or true friends; instead you have a high turnover rate with friends.
– Mock people for what they’re wearing at functions or how they walk, talk, dance, etc.
– Mock someone’s successes, failures and possessions, such as the car they drive or their apartment.
– Take comfort in gossip when the conversation is lacking
If you answered yes to one or more of these questions, you may want to remember that most of us have all fallen victim to rumours and gossip at one time or another in our lives and recall the ensuing pain. Before engaging in potentially frivolous banter, ask yourself if you would take the time to convey the information by typing it out to someone in the form of an email. It likely isn’t worth your time. Ask yourself, would you be mortified if the subject of gossip heard you speaking about them in such a manner? Nobody is perfect, and we have been/are all guilty of wrongdoing at one point or another in our lives. With that said, why should people gossip if at some point, it may come back to them?