Gossip has a purpose.
Dictionary definition – “casual or unconstrained conversation or reports about other people, typically involving details that are not confirmed as being true.” (New Oxford American Dictionary)
We are involved often in conversations about others where the details are unconfirmed. It can start out innocent, like a fact-finding expedition. And it can end up malicious.
So how do we pivot out of the middle of it when it starts to go negative?
It’s all about intention.
I ask myself, what is my intention for being in the middle of this? Am I listening for or seeking information for the benefit of another? Or am I enjoying this just a little too much?
Remember that we are hard wired to make sense of things, to connect dots…. So of course we lean in when information flows our way that fills in some blanks.
That’s why ‘over communication’ in organizations is a good thing because where there is lack of information, we cannot help but fill in the blanks, consciously or unconsciously. We can’t help it!
So, it’s good to be aware of our intentions when engaging in gossip.
When it comes your way,
Ask yourself questions: What were your first thoughts when caught in the gossip loop? What was your gut response? Was it fun or did you feel bad? What did you get out if it? What do you do now? What’s the best move? … and next time, what will you do?
You are not alone.
“Despite its bad reputation, gossip plays an important role by reinforcing community values: it makes people feel closer to each other, it unifies people who play by the rules, it helps people get a sense of the values of their community, and it exposes the misbehaviors of those who ….. “ (Rubin, p 155). Ha!
Lesson #1 – Gossip can help with self-awareness.
Lesson #2 – One more thing to know about saying critical things of others when gossiping,
There is a psychological phenomenon called “spontaneous trait transference”. Studies show that traits we speak of when describing others get stuck onto us. Meaning that if I say a person is ‘something negative’, that negative trait gets assigned to me by the listeners. If I say someone is a good person, then I am seen as a good person.