Gossip: “The unsanctioned evaluative talk about people who aren’t present”, as defined by Timothy Hallett, associate professor in the Indiana University Sociology Department.

Gossip is pervasive in our society, and our penchant for gossip can be found in most of our everyday conversations. There are various notions prevalent in our society about gossiping, from childhood we are taught not to gossip, but all know its hard to resist.

Various opinions

Different people hold different opinions. Here’s how different people view gossiping differently.

“I wouldn’t advocate a no-gossip policy,” Professor Hallett said. “The point is, if you know how gossip works, you can manage and control it.”

However, Pope Francis recently warned gossip ‘fills the heart with bitterness and also poisons us’.

But a new study suggests that gossiping may in fact be good because we use evaluative information about others (i.e., gossip) to improve, promote, and protect ourselves.

The Experiment

To understand the reason why people are so inclined to know about others’ failures, promotions, demotions, and achievements a study was conducted at the University of Groningen. The motive behind the study was to understand the effects of the gossip on the recipient.

A group of people including both men and women was asked to recall an earlier incident when they were told gossip about other individuals, then they posed certain questions regarding the way that gossip impacted them.

The Results: Men vs Women

And voila! Our researchers studied the results and found that most of the gossip forced the individuals to compare themselves and thus helped in self improvement as well confidence building.

But, the results clearly stated that the impact is gender specific; both men and women do not interpret the gossip in the same manner.

“Women who receive negative gossip experiences higher self-protection concerns possibly because they believe they might experience a similar fate as the person being the target of the gossip. Men who receive positive gossip experience higher fear, perhaps because upward social comparisons with competitors are threatening,” says Elena Martinescu at the University of Groningen.

Basic Conclusion

She adds that gossip provides individuals with indirect social comparison information and provides an essential resource to reflect on their behavior.She suggested rather than trying to block out gossip, we should ‘accept gossip as a natural part of our lives and receive it with a critical attitude regarding the consequences it may have on ourselves and on others.’

There is more to it!

In another scientific study it was found that women who get to chat for awhile on a daily basis stay happier and healthier.

Reason behind this idiosyncrasy is a hormone named progesterone which is famous worldwide as stress reducer and mood enhancer; it gets secreted in women when they gossip.

I guess this means gossiping makes me healthy as well.

So why are we asked not to gossip?

Not surprisingly,a lot of people do not accept the fact and some are still strictly against the concept.

Beth Weissenberger, co-founder of the Handel Group, an executive coaching company, says the first thing she does when consulting is to ban gossip. “Gossip is a manipulation,” she said. “It’s a form of being a chicken.”

If gossip is meant for providing insight into a situation or getting to know the whereabouts of people, it’s good. But, if the choice is taken to invade someone’s privacy or to slander someone’s reputation, then it’s a vice and not a virtue. Understanding this little difference can take you miles.

So in layman terms, scientific evidence has shown that healthy gossiping makes you a better person. Isn’t that good news? Yes, it is to me too.

To read the detailed study on how gossip can be a virtue, click here.

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