Five Reasons People Gossip and What You Can Do About It
We live in a litigious society and many have made it their mission to sue anyone that may have infringed on their person, property or rights.
Because of this, it is logical that companies have gone overboard to protect themselves from lawsuits by giving detailed warnings for their products.
I’ve looked at several and have gotten a good laugh. Here are some highlights.
· Warning on a microwave oven: Do not use for drying pets.
· Warning for trampoline use: If you are over 40 years old or have any other ailment, do not use this equipment.
· Warning on one of my dog’s prescriptions: Alcohol may intensify the effect of this drug. Use with care. (Sorry, Boone, no beer with your supper tonight.)
· Warning on a toilet bowl cleaner: Safe to use around pets and children, although it is not recommended that either be permitted to drink from the toilet.
· Warning on child’s shirt: Remove child before washing.
I’m sure I’ve read hundreds of warning labels through the years and had many laughs but there is one specific label that I have not seen and this is a terrible oversight.
I have seen no warning labels for our words. There is no single book at the elementary school where I teach that has a warning label cautioning the students to be careful with how they use their words.
There is great power in words; they can be used to build up or tear down. Gossip leaves a path of annihilation behind it.
In the thinking process I use to prepare for writing this blog, I reflect on the “whys” behind what we do. We do things for reasons and I have come up with a list of five primary reasons people gossip.
- People gossip to gain the attention they feel they lack.
There is pain in knowing that you are not included, acknowledged and/or accepted into a group of peers.
Being the reporter of interesting and often negative behaviors and traits of others gives you a temporary admission into this group and this is satisfying.
2. People gossip about individuals they dislike, hoping the negative information will cause others to dislike them, too.
Let’s admit it; there are people out there we can’t stand.
They rub us the wrong way or they are successful in areas we are not.
They might even be manipulators and seem to get away with it.
Gossiping about this person is tempting and when others buy into our negative information, it’s like you’ve gained an audience that favors your opinion on this person and that is gratifying.
3. People gossip because hearing bad things about others is sadistically satisfying.
We don’t even need to know the person, but there’s just something sadistically satisfying about hearing bad things about others.
4. People gossip because they want to help Karma pay back what they believe the victim deserves.
In my lifetime, I have known a handful of people who seem to have a streak of “getting away with thigs.” Gossip is a tool that some use to help ensure that Karma catches up with them. It’s payback time.
5. People gossip because it’s fun.
There are things we gain when we gossip. We receive attention, acceptance, satisfaction and more.
These things are gratifying and they give us a positive feeling in the moment. This satisfaction reinforces the desire to continue the cycle.
These things are potential reasons people gossip but I think these are only the surface ones.
There are deeper reasons for gossiping that many of us would rather other people not know.
- Gossiping about others takes the spotlight off myself and my weaknesses.
If I can keep an audience focused on someone else’s weaknesses and failures than others will be distracted from seeing mine.
It is a relief to be out from the social magnifying glass for a time.
2. Gossiping can tip the scales and makes me appear better than another.
When I have an inferior view of myself, talking about others can make me seem superior to them.
This gives me a reprieve from the feelings of inferiority and we repeat behaviors that have a positive emotional payoff in the moment.
I have found in my 50 plus years of life that the deadliest things are those that have a grain of truth in them. Many of the reasons I have listed for why people gossip are partly true.
Yes, we get attention and inclusion when we have “juicy” news. Yes, there is some satisfaction when someone gets what they deserve and the emotional rush we get when taking part in these things is real.
Gossip gives us these things to gain access to our souls and inject its poison.
None of the things listed above are good things. If people accept you because you have interesting news, that’s not true acceptance of you but rather, the acceptance of what you say.
They say that if “they’ll do something with you, they’ll do it to you.” Others may enjoy your negative reports but they’ll also enjoy spreading similar information about you to others.
Yes, there is some satisfaction and fun in telling negative things about others but it’s only a temporary enjoyment. This is not a personal accomplishment that builds your self-esteem; it erodes it.
Finally, gossip is like a flattering circus mirror; it gives you the illusion that your weaknesses are minimal and your value is higher than another when, in actuality, you are human, just like they are.
Realizing that gossip does more harm than good (a definite understatement), what can you do to fight it?
1. Is the information true, kind and necessary?
My parents taught me to consider these three things before passing on information about other people.
Is the information true? Completely and verifiably true? Is the information kind? Would you say it in front of the person it concerns?
Would you say it to a person you highly respect? Is the information necessary? This qualification squelches most gossip.
Nine times out of ten, the juicy tidbit of information serves no necessary, positive purpose.
2. Program your mind to be skeptical about the information others give you about a person.
We need to use our reasoning abilities and weigh the information we get about others. Is there legitimate evidence that the information is completely true?
If so, what effect does this information produce? Is it helpful in testing a situation so that my actions and reactions can help avoid trouble?
Mental laziness can poison you and the object of your gossip.
3. Just because something is true doesn’t mean it needs to be repeated.
There will come a day if you haven’t experienced it already when you will be the object of others’ gossip and it is not fun.
The wrong words spoken about others can destroy marriages, careers, families and more. We can decide not to continue the gossip. Period.