When you think about gossip, you probably have a negative image. I picture a group of people having a bawdy conversation and telling stories over dinner or drinks. Or, a hand in front of a mouth as one person whispers in another person’s ear.
We all do it. We may not like to admit it, but we all gossip. It’s easy to get caught up in it, and then feel guilty and a little bit ashamed afterward.
But what if gossip were actually good for you?
Research has shown that a little bit of gossip is healthy. It’s what binds a culture together. It helps keep the social machinery working properly. However, gossip is only healthy and beneficial when you use it selectively for the good of your social group. For instance, sharing the happy news that a couple you know is pregnant. Or, passing on that a mutual friend just got a promotion at work.
If you pass on negative information, indulge in rumors, or flat out lie simply to hurt someone or make yourself look good, that’s the type of gossip that will make you feel guilty afterward. And when your friends find out – and they will – you may be ostracized from the group.
How can you use gossip for the greater good?
Make important decisions
Humans are curious by nature. We like to hear about what is going on with other people. We also make many important decisions based on what others tell us. You might decide to take a new job based on what others say about the company. You may choose to go on a date with someone because your friends recommend him or her to you.
Create bonds with your friends
Good-natured gossip binds you together with your friends. We form friendships and bonds as a group with people who share our belief systems, morals and lifestyles. We enjoy the act of talking, listening, sharing secrets and telling stories. Gossiping brings us closer together. It’s still important to be kind and considerate, though, or you can lose these friendships quickly.
Teach you lessons
Gossip is a form of storytelling. Instead of “Once up on a time,” we start with, “Did you hear what happened to…” By sharing stories about what others have done and the outcome, we learn lessons about social norms and how to behave in society. You learn how you should behave – or not behave – in certain situations if you want to be accepted by your peers.
Keep you in line
No one wants to be gossiped about negatively. You may be deterred from going against the values and what is considered acceptable behavior in your social group. Social pressure and the risk of being talked about keeps us from doing or saying things that go against the group. On the other hand, the opportunity to be rewarded with positive gossip will encourage us to do things that are good for us and the group as a whole.
Good for your health
A little gossip can be good for your social and mental health. Sometimes you just need to vent. Our friends provide us with a sounding board if we are feeling frustrated about a situation or think we have been wronged by someone. By telling your side of the story and letting it out, you may feel better and relieve stress and anger you’ve been holding in.
Should you gossip as a rule? Probably not unless it’s positive gossip. Ask yourself these test questions before you open your mouth.
Would you want what you are about to say being said about you? Will what you are going to say hurt someone’s feelings if they find out? Would you say it in front of the person you are talking about?
If you don’t like the answers to any of these questions, it might be best to keep it to yourself!