Gossip Dies When It Reaches an Intelligent Person’s Ear
The process always seems to go the same way: there is a hypocrite who starts a rumor so that the gossiper will spread it and the naïve person will believe it without question. The epidemic of rumors only ends when it finally reaches an intelligent person’s ear, that vaccinated heart that neither pays attention to nor responds to things that make no sense.
In a book published in 1947 by social psychologist Gordon Allport, entitled The Psychology of Rumor, he explains something really curious to us: gossip serves to create a sense of cohesion among various groups of people and to take a stance against someone. At the same time, these behaviors give them pleasure, release endorphins, and manage to combat stress.
The tongue has no bones, and yet it is strong enough to cause harm and to poison through gossip and rumors. A lethal virus that can only be abated when it reaches the ears of an intelligent person.
In many cases, gossip turns into a social control mechanism that gives a certain amount of power to whoever does it. It makes them the center of attention for that group of people who are receptive to any rumor, to any slanted information with which to escape from their routine and take advantage of that new stimulus as a sort of distraction.
As anyone can tell you, gossipers do not know how to be happy. They are too worried about camouflaging their bitterness in vain, superfluous tasks to try to validate their self-esteem.
The psychology of insatiable gossip
Let’s think, for instance, about how fast a rumor, founded or unfounded, starts to be “contagious” in the world of social networks. The internet has already become like a veritable brain where data takes us residence like interconnected neurons, feeding us with information that is not always true nor respectful towards others.
As for experts in marketing and advertising, they always seem to give the example of the “Tropical Fantasy” drink for “fatal and insatiable gossip.” Released in the market in 1990, it had almost immediate success in the United States, until suddenly a rumor that was as terrifying as it was absurd popped up.
It was said that these cheap drinks had been created by the Ku Klux Klan with a very concrete goal in mind. Their low cost would allow a large portion of the African-American population with limited resources to have access to it. At the same time, though, its formula hid a very dark goal: to lower the quality of African-American men’s semen so that they could not have more children.
No one knows who started this wildfire rumor or why, but the impact was disastrous. It took years for the “Tropical Fantasy” brand to recover, and as a result, they are always sure to include images of African-Americans enjoying their drink in advertisements even today.
It did not matter how crazy the rumor itself was, how unfounded or how harmful it was, because it managed to attack the sensitivity of a group. Even knowing that it was not true, the emotional print remains. This is a clear example of one of the rumors that have left the greatest mark.
Defending ourselves from gossip and rumors
Whether we like it or not, our society is founded on power relationships where gossip and rumors are true projectile weapons. Manipulated truths are useful for many people. They help them reach higher positions and they provide very concrete benefits.
So then, it is necessary for us always to be that intelligent ear that will act as a barrier, that puts a stop to the affront, the senselessness, the false information, and the spark of that fire that always longs to sweep someone away.
As a result, and in order to understand these psychological processes that are so common in our social contexts a bit better, we propose that you keep in mind those pillars that sustain the psychological complex of gossip, of the gossiper, and of the naïve person who follows them.
Popular wisdom always tells us that in order to break a chain, we just have to get rid of one link. If rumors and gossip act like real viruses in our work environment, in our family, or in our social circles, it is necessary to have trusted people help us so that they act as flood gate. So that they act as intelligent ears to disarm things that do not make sense.
Rumors spread when there is someone who wants to gain notoriety at our expense. Faced with this behavior, we can act in two ways, either by letting the absurd fall on deaf ears or by acting assertively, putting up limits and being clear about things.
We have to be aware that in every organization, neighborhood, or social group, there is going to be an official “rumorologist,” a gossip-lover.
We must always show integrity, be transparent, and not feed that kind of behavior by giving in to the virus of rumors or gossip. So then, it is also necessary to know that it is not at all easy to discredit a rumor; words are not always enough. We need convincing facts to discredit and show how untrue that rumor is.
Forked tongues are always going to be around in one way or another, so the best thing will always be to avoid these and remember that rumors are for “riff raff” and information for wise ears.