Secrets Shared in Confidence Should Be Safe from Gossips

· February 28, 2018

Gossips are everywhere. They dress up in sheep’s clothing and feed on rumors as if their lives depended on it. They have that flock mentality, finding pleasure in other people’s shortcomings. And they enjoy violating trust and telling stories behind other people’s backs.

As reprehensible as gossip is, it’s actually a psychological behavior that has been around since the beginning of time. Gossip is a part of who we are as social beings. And this is exactly what a study published in 2008 in the magazine “Scientific American” said:

“Let your mouth not make up what your eyes haven’t seen.”

Robin Dunbar is a celebrated British anthropologist, psychologist and biologist. He developed a theory that described gossips as the petri dish where language first grew. According to the scientist, while our ancestors washed each other in their small social groups, they began to exchange information in a confidential context with the purpose of strengthening bonds.

Now, there are many types of gossip, and some are harmless. Many times all we’re trying to do is collect information to mitigate uncertainty in our environment. Interesting, isn’t it? Let’s dive in.

A man holding an envelope is riding a giant bird.

Traits of gossips

Epicurus defined gossip as a natural pleasure, but not a necessary one. We could live our whole lives without spreading a single rumor. Nothing would happen; we wouldn’t die. Nevertheless, real gossip mongers or gossips need rumors in some way. Because gossip compensates for their own disappointments, their emotional holes. We could say that rumors spice up their lives. Without them, their lives feel tasteless, boring.

Moreover, the biological mechanism that calls us to crowd together to share privileged information about others sets off a very intense chemical reaction. Serotonin is released: the happiness hormone. This explains why in certain people, spreading rumors is addictive.

Up next, we’ll look at a couple more traits.

It reinforces the feeling of belonging

For gossips, sharing a rumor implies consolidating an “us” in order to exclude “them”. This way, the feeling of belonging is created within a certain group. It’s very common in many work, school and even family environments.

It gives status

The person with a juicy bit of gossip has a weapon. It could be used to great advantage. As Nietzsche would say, there are some people who truly need to have a certain rank, status, and they won’t hesitate to get it through means of dubious moral reputation.

Gossiping creates “flock mentality”

We pointed this out at the beginning of the article. Spreading gossip without knowing whether it’s true, without applying any filter or evaluating whether it’s ok to spread it… it can tell us a lot about the human mind. We must stop this type of behavior. And gossips are stopped by simply not spreading rumors. The question is, how can we do this?

Well, by applying the protective filters we’ll describe below. 

a gossip telling a secret to another woman

The psychology of gossip and how to manage it

Gossip is juicy and colorful. Yet, it rarely does anything constructive. In fact, a study from London Business School explains how rumors occupy almost 70% of conversations in a workplace. Gossip could be used as a variable to measure the productivity levels of a company.

“Not everyone repeats the rumors they hear. Some people improve them.”

Gossips and the providers of mistaken rumors affect the dynamics of any environment. These rumors create unbridgeable distances in the network that makes up a workplace environment. It could end up with the workers distrusting management, and management distrusting its own human capital.

Now let’s look into what type of solutions you can put into practice in order to avoid dynamics like these.

Gossips: a beautiful woman giving a bird a letter.

How to halt harmful gossip

Let’s consider, first of all, how every rumor is susceptible to dragging along with it mistaken information and hurting people.

  • Rumors can be a form of socializing, but we should learn how to differentiate types of gossip. There’s the kind that seeks to contribute new, honest, useful and significant information. And then there’s the kind with more harmful purposes.
  • Furthermore, learn to distinguish trustworthy information from speculation.
  • Make it clear that you don’t want to participate in any gossiping that spreads ill-intentioned rumors.
  • Be careful, intuitive and very prudent when it comes time to give your trust and secrets to someone. Remember, it’s always best to practice wise prudence and discreet silence. Keep yourself safe from gossips.

In conclusion,  “grapevines” fit better in a nursery song than in our workplaces or friendships. However, it’s good to remember that this type of behavior will always be with us. Keep in mind that just turning a deaf ear to poison tongues can keep us from all kinds of trouble.