Useful little snippets of information, or nasty backstabbing? The Mix gets down and dirty on gossiping.

photo of two girls gossiping about another girl who looks upset

Gossip is great, unless you're the one being talked about.

Gossip is probably hardwired into most humans, both male and female, and may have evolved as a survival skill. It was useful to know where the nearest sources of food and clean water were, and what social events you quietly needed to be aware of in your tribe. People who provided positive information would have been valued highly. To this day, gossip can be good for us, although sometimes it can take a turn for the worse.

When gossip is good

A little bit of chit-chat can keep a social group running smoothly, and often helps to cement friendships. Tiny bits of trivia can be very entertaining; just look at how many of us read out celebrity gossip columns to our friends for a laugh. It can also help your career: you can find out informally where there are new job openings, have warnings of impending redundancies, or skirt your way discretely around assorted office affairs without putting your foot in it or hurting anyone’s feelings.

In its healthiest form, gossip shows that you’re taking an interest in what’s going on around you. It allows us to bring something new and interesting to our small talk, and also to our larger conversations. Sometimes it’s good for sparking off creative ideas or keeping an eye on new trends that might affect our lives. Most of us have the common sense to know that idle gossip is a bit of fun and has its place, but should not be taken too seriously.

When gossip is bad

Sometimes the facts behind the gossip go through a process of ‘Chinese whispers’, being re-told many times and eventually becoming grossly distorted or even having the original meaning reversed. We have all laughed when someone said; “It was in the paper so it must be true,” and the same goes for tales we might hear from our friends and colleagues. Take stories with a pinch of salt, and go to the source if you want to get it right.

Gossip becomes downright bitchiness if the person telling the story has a hidden agenda. They may want to make someone look bad in front of their friends, or steal their job/mates/boyfriend, for example. It is generally considered to be childish, and often backfires when people eventually realise what’s going on. Often, the person spreading malicious gossip is very insecure, or jealous, and can’t deal with their feelings in a healthy way.

Be very careful when passing on negative information, someone could be using you in a ‘whispering campaign’ to get at another person unfairly. Silly or ‘funny’ bitchiness may simply be due to an individual’s sense of humour, but if it gets to you don’t be scared to ask then to tone it down – they may not realise that they’ve overstepped the mark.

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Updated on 29-Sep-2015