Gossiping is universally understood to be a negative practice that only mean people do. It’s fun to share secrets and speculate about the lives of others but once it’s done we tend to feel a bit guilty, like we’ve done something wrong. Research shows, however, that gossiping is not only normal but it can be beneficial too.
This is not to say that being mean about people is a good thing; there is a difference between mean-spirited gossip and (relatively) harmless gossip. One is unproductive (like laughing about how a friend can never keep a man) and one is just a natural way for you to vent and bond with others (like complaining with your workwife about how your boss always gives you something to do at 4:55pm on a Friday).
Talking about other people makes up for about 70% of our daily conversations and it’s scientifically proven that gossiping releases oxytocin (the ‘love’ hormone) so it’s undeniable that humans like it. So, there’s no need to feel bad that you enjoy spilling the tea. As long as it’s not hurting anyone and isn’t cruel then vent away, girl. Here is why a good bitching session can actually be good for you:
It’s normal to talk about other people, duh
‘Great minds discuss ideas. Average minds discuss events. Small minds discuss people’ is one of the many quotes self-righteous people like to use when trying to make people who like talking about the Kardashians feel stupid. Guess what? Talking about people is interesting! Sorry not sorry that some of us sometimes prefer talking about Elon Musk’s relationship with Grimes over talking about Elon Musk’s space car. In fact scientists think our interest in the lives of others stems back to the prehistoric times meaning gossiping is actually pretty ingrained in us.
A good gossip session is a lesson in human behaviour
Gossip is almost always considered a negative thing that mostly women do. Gossiping and being a woman are intrinsically linked, but so are other habits such as being empathetic and being emotionally intelligent. Talking about others, hearing their experiences and their reactions teaches us a lot about human behaviour as well as improves our ability to empathise. Maybe we’ve never been cheated on or fallen in love with someone else’s man or gone on a date with a dude who has a kid, but through girl talk we’ve discussed all of these scenarios in detail. We consider all angles of the story and how we might react if something like this happened to us, making us more sensitive to others and better prepared for when something similar happens to us or our friends.
It’s a way to bond
Although gossiping has negative connotations, people who are the most successful socially are those who are skilled at gossiping. They have a good rapport with a lot of people and even though we know they like to gossip we still trust them with juicy tid bits.A good gossiper knows what information is okay to discuss and what isn’t. Those who declare themselves as being ‘above’ gossip end up being socially excluded and left out as they seem self-righteous.
When you share a juicy secret with someone you’re subconsciously saying to them ‘I trust you’, which undoubtedly makes you feel closer and more connected. And it doesn’t have to be about people you actually know. Discussing famous people is an easy way to create a bond with someone you’ve just met as it feels like you’re talking about a mutual friend (the only difference is Dua Lipa definitely isn’t sitting around and discussing you, soz).
Gossiping sets the tone
…especially in the workplace. One psychologist says we should start to think of gossip as a ‘social skill rather than as a character flaw’ as when it’s done ‘right’ (i.e. in a productive and not mean-spirited way) gossip can have a positive role at work. It’s a way to learn about what behaviour is acceptable at your job and what won’t fly. Maybe you didn’t realise that you were supposed to be washing your own mugs until you heard Janet bitching about how Abby just expects the cleaners to do everything for her. Or perhaps you thought you were really bad at your job until hearing that your boss is actually super patronising to all of your co-workers and you shouldn’t take it personally. Just remember there is a difference between bitching about someone being lazy at work (acceptable if true) and bitching about someone’s lazy eye (just plain mean).
It can boost worker morale
Gossip can also boost morale and work ethic in the work place. Research shows that when someone acts out by not working well their co-workers gossip about it. This acts as incentive for others to work well as they don’t want to be the target of gossip, plus venting is a form of stress relief. Harmless gossip also makes colleagues feel closer to each other which makes for a more satisfied work life. This is why the smokers of the office are always so tight, ‘cos you know they’re not discussing the weather during those smoke breaks.
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