Is gossip healthy? – NewYorkUpstate.com
by Jessie Blaeser
Gossip has a reputation for toxicity. When you talk behind someone else’s back—good or bad—you’re breaking that person’s trust. For this reason, most would agree that gossiping is bad for everyone involved. But, almost everyone does it. According to one study, most gossip is simply neutral chit-chat and can actually benefit those engaging in it. Some people feel that confiding in your friends and colleagues in the form of gossip is healthy. What do you think?
Gossip is typically referred to as a toxic behavior, but nearly everyone does it on a daily basis. According to a study from the University of California, people spend an average of 52 minutes per day talking about other people. The study also found that most of that chatter is neither positive nor negative, but “nonjudgemental chitchat.”
But, even in the cases when gossip does take a negative turn, researchers agree that the conversation can still have a positive effect. NPR’s Allison Aubrey reports on the study’s findings:
“I think gossiping can be a smart thing to do,” says Elena Martinescu, a postdoctoral researcher at King’s College London who has studied gossip in the workplace. “It allows people to keep track of what’s going on and form social alliances with other people,” Martinescu says.
Rather than divide a group, gossip can actually bring people together and even lead to further cooperation.
“When you gossip, you can keep track of who is contributing to the group and who’s being selfish,” Martinescu explains. “And by sharing this information, you can exclude those group members who are social loafers.”
Negative gossip can be extremely dangerous. Spreading false information can create a cycle of reputation damage and bullying that is almost impossible to stop once it’s started. As The Spruce’s Debby Mayne puts it:
No one ever benefits from malicious discussion about other people.
At the end of the day, gossiping hurts your own reputation just as much as it can hurt the reputation of others. Even if your words lack malice, by gossiping, you send the message that you cannot be trusted. No matter how juicy or benign, gossiping should be avoided at all costs.
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