How Gossiping can Improve your Life

Not all gossip is toxic — here is how to do it well

Alana Shegog
Nov 11, 2020 · 4 min read
Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

Gossip was always my dirty, secret habit. I never wanted to admit that I enjoyed it. Who would trust me after that?

I was like a bee to a flower, always finding the groups at work that enjoyed a good gossip and avoiding those that I knew would judge my blabbermouth.

Sometimes I would feel a little guilty but on many the occasion, it made me feel connected and energized. This always made me second guess if giving up gossip did deserve the place on my New Years' resolutions list each January.

I’ve done some digging and the truth is, gossip is a fundamental part of human interaction. If you do it well, it can be a great tool to live a life full of deep connections.

Why do we gossip?

Psychologist Robin Dunbar suggests gossip is a primal social mechanism used to communicate and structure large groups. She noticed many parallels to the act of gossip and apes grooming each other to bond.

Just like our fight for survival climbing the corporate ladder, our ancestors used gossip to determine their place in the pack, protect each other and bring in new pack members.

We are social creatures that need others to survive so it makes sense that the act of gossiping hasn’t left us.

Benefits of gossip

Gossip is a great way for us to learn and grow in a social environment. We can use it as a social comparison to then judge our own role in society. Being told a co-worker’s business or a celebrity scandal is not always useless information. You can use this to grow as a person and learn an important lesson that can be applied to your own life.

Another great perk of gossip is it connects us to new people and strengthens our bond with others. We can use it as a tool to start up conversations as well as entertain each other. In the absence of a shared experience, humans can use gossip to connect over the experiences of others.

Dunbar’s work also focuses on the use of gossip to protect each other from “free riders”, these are group members that do not have the group’s best interest at heart. So that time you warned a friend to keep away from a certain someone, was in the end, a beneficial form of gossip.

The ugly kind

Before you get too excited, not all gossip is beneficial to our mental wellbeing. Determining the difference between toxic gossip and the positive kind is key.

Have you ever repeated something that you knew was meant to be kept quiet? Unless sharing this secret was for the greater good, it probably didn’t make you feel warm and fuzzy afterward. This is because betraying someone’s trust can lead us to feel anxious and guilty.

Another form of gossip that can be destructive is falsifying or exaggerating a story to ruin the reputation of another. This can have negative effects on both their and your reputations as you will come across as less trustworthy and credible.

How to make gossip work for you

  1. Always think of a takeaway for each piece of gossip. Ask yourself and others, how can we learn from this piece of information?
  2. Use gossip to build relationships with new people. This doesn’t always have to bring another person down. Maybe you know their interests and can use current affairs to start up a conversation.
  3. You can use gossip to protect someone from another but know the boundaries. Excessively dragging another’s name through the mud is not beneficial for them or you. Remember we are all humans that are not free from imperfections.
  4. If you have promised to keep a secret make sure you honor this. Spilling the beans is never good for anyone. Recognize if you don’t enjoy being burdened with a secret and unless it’s imperative, ask that you be kept out of their business. You may seem cold at first but they will appreciate your honesty and integrity.

Final thoughts

Gossip isn’t all bad and is a great way to connect with and learn from other people. Go with your gut, if you feel guilty after spreading a rumor or attacking someone’s character it’s probably not going to be the kind of gossip that will serve you and others.

If however, your gossiping is helping you improve yourself, protecting others or forming bonds then gossip away. We all need to find a way to connect, to live a full and happy life.

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