Why We Gossip

Why We Gossip

Author: jinterwas-onFlickr

According to Evolutionary Psychologists, almost two thirds of our conversation time is devoted to gossip. That’s right – 2/3!  That’s just absurd! Everyone is taught that gossiping is an ugly, low-minded pastime occupation.
“So how?” you may ask, can it be that we do it more than half the time????

First the positive:

Gossip isn’t always slandering someone.

1. Gossip Helps Us Bond With Others.

The act of gossiping – talking, listening, sharing secrets and stories – bonds us together. Let’s say you go to a party.  You haven’t seen some of the people for eons. When you are fairly alone with one, they might ask if you’ve seen so-and-so?, and if so, how were they? If that goes well, you may exchange other stories.

  • When we share emotions – feel the same about something/someone – we create a bond.

Last week I was hiking with an old high school friend who I hadn’t spoken to for years. We shared old memories, and then talked about the misfortunes of a friend we both knew and cared about. I can attest – that compassion-filled conversation made us both feel much closer.

  • When we express shared values, we create a bond.

If I say I am a staunch vegan (I am not, for the record!), and you are too, we “get” each other in a way non-vegans can’t. In a way, we confirm that we are better people because of our shared values and commitments.

2. Gossip can serve to gather and share useful and helpful information about others – Without direct and embarrassing inquiry.

Gossip is a way of comparing notes, and its rarely meant to be with malicious intent amongst friends and more of a way getting the full picture. When we air our grievances about a third person, it serves two purposes that I can think of. First, we want to know our view is valid: “So that would upset you, too? Well that’s a relief – I was afraid I was feeling crazy”. Secondly, it can serve as a rehearsal for speaking directly to the person we are upset with.

If two people share concerns and intimate knowledge about someone they mutually care about, it creates a bond. In my family, for instance, we’d talk about our sense of hopelessness regarding another relative we loved. It was our year in and year out ritual. I even remember how awkward conversations became after that relative got better (what do we talk about now???)! Such gossip works because it seems better to learn so-and-so got divorced, is in the hospital, or died, sooner than later. On a similar note, being the “knowledge-sharer” of these things creates an advanced position in one’s social group.

3. Gossip teaches us the “rules” of social groups.

It keeps us in line. Most of us relate better to stories than to raw data, and gossip is a form of storytelling, an interpersonal folklore. “Did you hear about so-and-so?” By hearing and sharing these stories, we learn about the social norms and conventions of the people around us. We learn how to act – and how not to act – in certain situations. For example “THAT teacher is a bully – when Jimmy talked out in class, the teacher ….”;  or “Can you believe I heard Emily swearing like a pirate? Parents shouldn’t put up with that!”

The Negative Side of Gossip

Gossip can actually be a kind of deterrent or a punishment against those who deviate from the values of a group. It’s tough to be the one being negatively gossiped about or the one excluded because of a nasty rumor, so the social pressure keeps us from veering too far away from the groups prescribed way of behaving.

According to one writer, the following are some ways it’s used in a group.

• For control or power – One negative use of gossip is to use it as a way of reducing the status of another. This can be very vicious, and unlike bonding-gossip described above, it’s meant to damage another. Look to politics for examples.

• Out of boredom – Many gossip studies say this was the #1 reason why young people say they spread rumors. Sometimes when everyone is happy and getting along, it seems kind of dull. Spreading juicy rumors shakes things up a bit, gets two people to start a fight, and that adds a little excitement to the group. All those tabloid newspapers and TV shows full of celebrity gossip are pure proof that rumors are a popular form of entertainment. All reality shows script this in. (heavy sigh)

•  Out of jealousy or to feel superior – When people are feeling bad about themselves, they may unconsciously think they’ll feel better if there were someone worse off than they are. This can be random neighborhood gossip, but also look at cyberbullying.

• To feel like part of the group – If everybody else is gossiping or spreading rumors, you might feel you have to do the same thing in order to fit in. When you’re “in on the secret,” you’re in the group. Unfortunately, you could be the person who the gossip or rumor is about next time.

What To Do if You Are The Target Of Gossip, and why “no comment” is the wrong answer

In a gossipy world, what we do matters less than what people think we do, so we’d better be able to frame our actions in a positive light. As social creatures, hearing rumors, especially repeatedly, tends to increase our belief in them. Not commenting on a rumor tends to raise the question, or cause suspicion that the rumors might be true.

• Confront the person. If the gossiper is causing damage to your reputation, and if you don’t expect him to stop soon, then you need to speak with the person. Even though the accusations may be unfair and untrue, the situation is real. You need to get ahead of the rumor in order to deal with it in the here and now.

Say something a bit aggressive, like “I am aware of what you are doing and only those who are scared to face one another gossip.” Look the person in the eye, and you tell your side of the story. Most people will apologize and remember your talk the next time they decide to gossip about you.

• Teach People How to Treat You. If you walk into your social situation avoiding eye contact, and with your head hung down, your body language says “guilty as charged”, even though what you are really thinking is “I can’t stand to know what they are thinking of me!” You have to be your own best friend, and you have to decide who you are at the core of your being. With that in mind, carry yourself as such.

But here’s the thing…

Gossip is a low-minded pastime occupation. Because we have evolved, we can choose not to participate. We can discuss, directly, our grievances, our worries, our concerns. We can communicate honestly and with integrity. We can investigate our judgements, and learn about ourselvesWe can grow our compassionate hearts by understanding our judgements.

Article sources

Sydney University’s Associate Professor of gender and cultural studies, Catherine Driscoll.


Relationship Success

… boils down to 2 qualities –

Kindness & Generosity

couple-1190902_1920A team of researchers hooked couples up to electrodes and asked the couples to speak about their relationship: how they met, a major conflict they were facing together, and a positive memory they had. As they spoke, electrodes measured the subject’s blood flow, heart rates, and how much they sweat. Then the researchers sent the couples home and followed up with them 6 years later to see if they were still together.

From the data they gathered,  John Gottman (and team) separated the couples into two major groups: the Masters and the Disasters. The masters were still happily together after 6 years. The disasters had either broken up or were unhappy in their marriages.

One fact they found interesting: The more physiologically active the couples were in the experimental lab, the quicker their relationships deteriorated over time. Now we’re not talking “aroused”  as in “sexually attracted”. We’re talking about being in fight-or-flight mode. Having a conversation, sitting next to their partner was, to their bodies, like facing off with a saber-toothed tiger! They didn’t feel safe with each other. Conversely, the masters had created a climate of trust and intimacy. They were more emotionally comfortable.

How did the masters create a culture of love and intimacy?

All people make requests for connection, what Gottman calls “bids.” The Other could respond by either turning toward” or “turning away.

Though the connection-bid might seem minor and silly to One partner, the Other partner apparently thought it was important enough to share, and the question is whether the partner recognizes and respects that.

Couples who had divorced after a six-year follow-up had “turn-toward bids”  of only 33% – Only 3 of 10  bids for emotional connection were met with intimacy. The couples who were still together after six years had “turn-toward bids” 87% of the time. That means 9 out of 10. They were meeting their partner’s emotional needs.
By observing these types of interactions, Gottman can predict with up to 94 percent certainty whether couples — straight or gay, rich or poor, childless or not — will be broken up, together and unhappy, or together and happy several years later.
Much of it comes down to the ‘spirit’ couples bring to the relationship – personality characteristics. Do they bring kindness and generosity; or contempt, criticism, and hostility?
Gottman concludes, “there’s a habit of mind that the Masters have. They are scanning the social environment for things about their partner they can appreciate and say thank you for. They are building a culture of respect and appreciation very purposefully.  On the other hand, the Disasters are scanning the social environment for their partners’ mistakes.”

Contempt, they have found, is the number one factor that tears couples apart. People who are focused on criticizing their partners miss a whopping 50 percent of positive things their partners are doing and they see negativity when it’s not there.

People who give their partner the cold shoulder — deliberately ignoring the partner or responding minimally — damage the relationship by making their partner feel worthless and invisible, as if they are not there, and certainly, not valued. Being mean is the death bell of relationships.

Kindness, on the other hand, glues couples together. Research independent from Gottman has shown that kindness, along with emotional stability, are the most important predictors of satisfaction and stability in a marriage. Kindness makes each partner feel cared for, understood, and validated.

There’s a great deal of evidence showing the more someone receives or witnesses kindness, the more they will be kind themselves, which leads to love and generosity in a relationship. Please note: this means that one partner can bring out goodness in the other – by way of example.

Gottman gives an example: “Disasters will say things differently in a fight. Disasters will say ‘You’re late. What’s wrong with you? You’re just like your mom.’ Masters will say ‘I feel bad for picking on you about being late, and I know it’s not your fault, but it’s really annoying that you’re late again.’”

Masters appear to take the time to choose their words. They don’t ignore their feelings like some Disasters do (only to blow up later). They own their perceptions and approach the partner with a desire to share and solve the problem. Disasters will often approach as though they are an expert on the other and there is no invitation for a discussion.

Couples can learn to communicate with respect. They can learn about connection-bids. But they have to be motivated.

Excerpts from: http://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2014/06/happily-ever-after/372573/#ixzz3InrNj0bN

Site Map of Popular Posts