Few things in this world are universal. Gossip may well be one of them. Our society is obsessed with it. We have tabloids, magazines, television shows, and news prints dedicated to nothing but gossip. We can all think of times when we have heard or participated in gossip. I would venture to say that there is not one of us that has not at some time or the other gossiped. While everyone gossips, I think women are best known for it.
Why do we gossip? Some people gossip to fill an emotional need. They feel jealous, envious, inferior, or like they don’t belong. Talking about others can temporarily ease these feelings. Jealous? Envious? Mask it by talking about that person’s clothes, friends, or lifestyle. Feel as if you don’t belong to a group? Talk about someone outside that group with the group in order to ‘win’ a place in it. Gossip is often used a social manipulation tool. Additionally, it is often used to express strong feelings. We gossip about others to exercise anger, to rail against perceived injustice, or to express heartache that person has caused us.
Some would argue that women are biologically predisposed to gossip. I see this as nothing more than a way to excuse bad behavior. Each one of us chooses how to behave and what to say. Defaming gossip has harsh and far-reaching consequences. The first is ruined relationships. Defaming gossip can ruin any relationship. One slip of the tongue in a moment of anger and you may see life-long relationships end immediately. Gossip can also ruin a potential relationship. Having a reputation as a gossip monger could make people not even want to meet you. Additionally, such a reputation could translate directly into trust issues. If you will freely speak despairingly of others, how can your friends trust you not to speak that way about them? Take that one step further. How can the person you date or are married to trust you not to publicly defame them in a moment of anger? Gossip has the ability to affect every interpersonal relationship in your life, including work relationships. If you gossip in order to express repressed feelings, take time to think of some other outlets. Find a single confidant, exercise, or pray. Surely there is an alternative that fits your life.
On the other hand, not all gossip is bad. Gossip often is the social glue in our interpersonal relationships. It can be the agent that allows us to discuss and explore relationships, attitudes, and different world views. Derogatory gossip, however, is not the best agent for this. The key to gossip or interpersonal communication is to think before you speak. I recently attended a meeting in which author Jerry Bridges stated that there are three questions you should ask yourself before speaking about someone else.
1. Is it true?
2. Is it kind?
3. Is it necessary?
We can all use these three simple questions to avoid the pitfalls of derogatory gossip. If we all take a moment to think through things before we speak, we can build more relationships, strengthen the relationships we have, build our self-worth without tearing down those around us, and begin to change the view the world holds that women enjoy character-defaming gossip.