Gossip Mongers

Why is it that people gossip?

Do you remember that vivacious and friendly person who you had so much fun spending time with?  They were so charming and appeared so good-natured that you did not hesitate to share your personal details with them. They knew exactly what to say to make you feel good. And they were so popular. It seemed that everyone wanted to hang out with them. You felt so proud that they were your friend.

Till one day, an acquaintance tells you a personal detail about you that you had not shared with them. Or they tell you that you were a subject of conversation, the jokes were on you and you were made fun of by your new best friend. You are shocked! You feel your stomach churning. How can this be? How can this person who you thought was your new best friend do this to you? You almost feel like throwing up. You want to confront and yell and scream at this person, but all you can do is cry. A cry of betrayal because you had trusted this person and here they were talking about you and laughing at you publicly behind your back.

I am not saying that all charming and popular people are gossipers, but a few of them are. And it’s not that these people are bad mouthing everyone they meet. Rather, they have calculatedly identified a few innocent ones who they think will not fight back and who they particularly do not care to be in a relationship with.  They may not really even be meaning any harm and it could just be in their opinion a light-hearted fun conversation. But beware, this negative tattling can destroy the confidence and self-esteem of the person gossiped about.

While most of us steer clear of the gossipers after one betrayal, an act of gossip does not necessarily entail betrayal all the time. Sometimes gossiping can be quite positive.  There are various reasons people gossip.

The act of gossiping is positive when people  gossip because:

  • they want to know information about others who they may not be meeting or talking to in their day to day life.
  • it informs them of what acceptable behavior is. Listening to the gossip gives them pointers on what they need to do so that they do not themselves become a subject of gossip.
  • it provides them with a way to bond with others who they are sharing the gossip with.    
  • it makes them popular. Since they share private and intimate information about others, people think that they must know others well.  In general, people like to be associated with popular people.

The act of gossiping is negative when people gossip because:

  • they are jealous of others and feel superior by putting others down. They may criticize the other person’s lifestyle, their children’s accomplishments and in general, just make fun of them.
  • it gives them power over others. If they indulge in negative gossip, people make sure that they stay in good books with that person otherwise they might be the next person gossiped about.  If the gossiper indulges in positive gossip, people still want to stay in their good books because they feel that good words may spread about them.
  • it allows them to express their dislike for others in a socially acceptable way.  They may gossip about the other person’s clothes, their house, their job. Really anything and everything.  They just want to talk negatively about that person because it gets their pent-up negative emotions out.
  • it’s a way to seek revenge. The other person may have bad mouthed or snubbed them in the past and gossiping provides an outlet for getting their anger out.
  • they have a lot of time on their hands and an empty mind.  As a famous quote by the history scholar Henry Thomas Buckle goes “Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people.”

When small minds discuss people, more than likely it is a negative discussion. And in this negative discussion, any negativity that they spew out generates negativity around them as well, which could be harmful to their physical and mental health.  It’s as if they are cutting their nose to spite their face.

So use your mouth and your energy wisely. We have one life to live and many things to do. No one knows what tomorrow will bring. Make an effort to spread joy in other people’s life rather than the pain that you may unknowingly cause by negatively gossiping about them.  

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