Dirt, mudslinging, hearsay and tittle-tattle are words synonymous with gossip. Encarta defines gossip as conversation about personal or intimate rumors or facts, especially when malicious; informal and chatty conversation or writing about recent and often personal events. Rumors are closely related to gossip in that rumors are usually gossip that is spread and repeated about a person's intimate details. According Robin Dunbar author of Grooming, Gossip and the Evolution of Language, gossip is a natural part of the human species, as apes and monkeys, humanities closets kin used language to keep up-to-date on the happenings of friends and family, just as we do. Dunbar believes that we need conversation to stay in touch, and we need it in ways that will not be satisfied by teleconferencing, e-mail, or any other communication technology. From a religious perspective Rabbi Stephen Wylen suggests in his book The Power of the Word that "idle gossip and malicious speech are the most frequent and pervasive sins of ordinary life" he believes people either consciously or unconsciously "persist in patterns of speech that disrupt relationships, create unhappiness, and even endanger lives." However one chooses to rationalize gossip it has become so imbedded into American culture that oftentimes we cannot decipher mere gossip from news. This paper will present a discussion on gossip, particularly why gossiping is so popular and how it affects people and society. Additionally, this paper will address various ways to prevent gossip.
Why People Gossip
Here are some common reasons that people engage in gossip:
People are bored with their lives
People feel that to contribute to a conversation they must bring other people down.
People are jealous and envious of others.
People don't like themselves and are unhappy with their lives
People have nothing to say, so they think if they bad talk other people or spread rumors and lies they are important and the other people listening will think we are intelligent.
There are many reasons why people engage in gossip, whether they are the talebearer or are lending an ear to listen. It must be said that gossip does not necessarily have to be a lie, but rather it is the telling of a persons intimate dealings to others. There is no such thing as good gossip. If a person is rumored to be getting a raise or a promotion some people may be happy and others may feel envious. Others who are jealous may scorn the target of the rumor. Even if the person is praised, the rumor is still gossip. Sometimes relationships, careers, friendships and other important aspects of a person's life may be seriously destroyed or impaired by gossip. Some celebrities have lost their careers over vicious malice gossip, even "innocent" gossip can be just as harmful. In the Christian Bible, the book of Proverbs chapter 26 tells a story of a gossiper and how she affected another mans life, when she realized what she had done, she went to him and apologized. She said she would do anything to make up for the cruel things that she had said. He told her to take a sackful of feathers and to go to a certain street corner and to cast the feathers to the wind. She did so and when she had finished came back and reported. The gentleman then directed her to go back and retrieve every feather. But she exclaimed that is impossible, the wind has scattered them everywhere. So it is with the things you have said, he replied, there is no way to repair the damage that you have done. Psychologists contend that people gossip out of jealously, fear, hate, low self-esteem and other mental and emotional issues. It is also theorized that gossip is a way to "take" something from some one else, it is an attack on ones person. Gossip is used to exert control over another person and to feel superior among a group of ones peers.
Gossip: Affects on People and Society
Gossip is just as prevalent in the workplace as on the schoolyard, as common in the boardroom as in the classroom. In summary, gossip exists everywhere, in all forms. There is little between a 7-year-old's gossip and a 37-year-old's gossip, the older age group just uses bigger words, sophisticated speech and fancy jargon, but the gossip is usually centered around the same petty things. In the corporate arena gossip may allow a person to move up or down the corporate ladder. Frank McAndrew, professor of psychology at Knox College in Galesburg, Ill says that "gossip gives us information on how to better interact with other people... when we read something about how someone has acted or hear about how someone has acted then we hear the opinions people have of that action." Gossip is used as a tool in the corporate world; people use it to make contacts and to form strategic bonds among co-workers. "Gossip tends to reflect the corporate culture and in organizations that have a low-trust culture, you get gossip that is in the form of warfare." As Nigel Nicholson, author the Executive Instinct: Managing the Human Animal in the Information Age explains. Those who are on the low end of the totem poll gossip with superiors so they can feel important. Once unnoticed, the subordinate worker becomes empowered by the attention that his or her "news" affords. In the corporate world gossip is as competitive as sport and just about the entire office are players. Gossip, has become a survival mechanism, used to climb the corporate ladder and to push other players of. In our information age those with the information have the power, and since it is human nature to be in control, people use whatever mechanisms at their disposal to achieve positions of power. For the same reasons that gossip prevails in the workplace it also prevails elsewhere as well.
More than half of the news is gossip. The Chandra Levy case is a prime example of this; the news often intertwined important information with information that was merely gossip. As a matter of fact "news" that OJ Simpson has a new girlfriend and the break up of Brittany Spears and Justin Timberlake also has made prime time headlines. People also use gossip to network; navigating the social pathways of the company or any place else requires a good understanding of its complexity. There is an extensive stream of research, summarized in the work of sociologist Lee Ellis, Ph.D., and epidemiologist Richard Wilkinson, Ph.D., showing that among humans, as in other primate species, being of high rank confers an important array of benefits: health, wealth and happiness. Other reasons why people gossip is to gain influence over others and to forge alliances, whatever the reason for the gossip, gossip can severely disable a person's personal and/or professional life. "Much malicious gossip is conducted unconsciously, an act that requires self-deception. But humans are especially adept at it; it helps us to maintain consistent social performance," according to Robert Trivers, Ph.D., one of the originators of evolutionary psychology. "In the world of gossip, self-deception often takes the form of genuinely believing one is on the high moral ground of charitable sympathy, looking down on one's slowly sinking victim."
In order to decipher gossip from real news a person should ask himself or herself: Is it true? Is it harmless? Is it necessary? If the answer is no or if the person is unsure then it more than likely is gossip.
It is rational to conclude that gossip, no matter how innocent, can really harm the person who is being gossiped about. There are many things that a person can do to prevent the spread of gossip. One way may be to confront the person spreading the gossip, and politely ask him or her to stop. It would be almost impossible to stop that person from gossiping altogether but a person can stop the gossiper from spreading "information" to them. Another way to stop gossiping is to turn a deaf ear to the gossiper, if there is no one to listen, gossip cannot be spread. On the other hand, however, if the person is the gossiper himself or herself, they must take a good look and themselves to find the real reason why they enjoy spreading rumors about others. As mentioned earlier, gossip usually stems from envy, jealously, or other emotional problems. The person should ask him or herself, why am I gossiping about this person? How would I feel if I was being gossiped about? Is this information necessary? How do I feel during and after I finish gossiping? The gossiper should reevaluate his or her behavior to find the cause of the problem and take the necessary steps to remedy the situation. Perhaps, the obsessive-compulsive gossiper should limit his or her gossiping to celebrities, that way the gossiper does not harm those in his or her environment. Eliminating gossip altogether may be very difficult for anyone to do, since it…