Many people believe that gossiping is a very ugly habit. Religious people also consider gossip a sin. But we are still exposed to gossip almost wherever we turn. From an early age, I choose friends who did not have the habit of talking about other people in such a way, people who preferred to talk about ideas and experiences. But, of course, sometimes I find myself in the company of people who notably enjoy passing on repulsive or shameful information about other people. Such information regularly comes from reliable sources, and the person who spreads it always has the same eye glow … a malicious glow. We all have reactions to gossip. Someone is surprised, someone is shocked, someone is moralizing, someone pities the main victims of gossip, but if you think about it, you will surely agree with me that the people you hear “juicy stories” from are actually most often the same people you heard another gossip from and entertaining information about others.
Those who listen to juicy stories differ in their propensity for gossip. Some are silent and do not pass it on to others or just pass on some important information to their loved ones. Others inquire in astonishment or interest for details, others stand in defense of the victims of gossip, and only a few spread that gossip “in confidence.” Have you ever experienced someone interrupting a “juicy story” with a statement that they don’t want to listen to such things? Have you ever done that? Would you consider thwarting the gossip’s evil intentions if you were aware that surely the person telling you about others will be telling others about you tomorrow?
Everyone knows that there is nothing beautiful, nothing useful, nothing noble in gossip. Surely you are already aware that not even a gossiping person has pure and noble intentions. A person who speaks ugly about others speaks the most about himself.
What is the psychology behind gossip?
When I recall my own experience with such people, it is very clear to me that, apart from talking about other people, – they have no capability of talking about anything else! Such people do not have enough intellectual capacity to talk about ideas, beautiful things, interesting experiences. They don’t have enough beauty in them to talk about themselves. By that, I don’t mean narcissistic bragging, but stories about one’s dreams, desires, plans, one’s worries, consideration of one’s actions, or love for something. They don’t have that something in them that motivates you to be better. The only direction such people lead is towards the bottom.
Research shows that gossipers generally have very high levels of anxiety. While they may be the “soul of the party” for a while, they are ultimately not popular because they can’t be trusted. Disseminating personal information or judging others is painful and reflects badly on gossip. Research also says that people who gossip don’t usually feel good about their skin (although it may seem like they feel very confident, it’s just an outward impression) – gossiping makes such people feel better about themselves because compared to people who gossip works better for themselves!
Research also shows that people gossip out of boredom. As I said before – people who can’t produce an interesting conversation based on knowledge or ideas gossip to arouse the interest of others. Gossip also happens out of envy – to harm those whose popularity, talents, or lifestyle those who gossip cannot reach. People who gossip cling to a statement of their “victim” and show disgust and shock in front of others “how such a smart/talented/educated/respectable person can do/say such a thing”. These are classic statements of a person who gossips out of envy. When you don’t envy, then you can wonder and resent yourself, without passing it on to others. Also, you can try to understand why such a smart/talented/educated/respectable person would do what amazes you. Maybe you can learn something from that!
An example from your own experience can show you what this looks like in reality. I was appalled for a few days by the fact that an educated and seemingly smart person had taken full credit for my scientific work. On reflection, I concluded that, apparently, that person was educated, but not educated; wise but not clever; manipulative but not capable enough to do the work on its own. Such a person needed to steal someone else’s intellectual property. In our society, it is quite O.K., but it is not even plagiarism, but theft. Theft is a legally punishable offense. What did I do? Instead of going down to that person’s level and gossiping to everyone about how one such an educated person does something like that, I did a few better jobs over the next few months. In this example, you clearly see the role ratio and power ratio.
Research has shown that people prone to gossipping do it to gain a sense of belonging to a group. But in this case, belonging to a group is not based on one’s own identity but on the exclusion of others from the group and based on evil intentions. We all know that it is a form of abuse – social and psychological abuse!
Furthermore, gossip is a good means of attracting the attention of those people who like to be the center of attention. Spreading gossip is like buying attention; such attention is temporary and unfounded. People who are angry and unhappy often gossip, people about whom there would also be something to tell. In this way, they divert attention from their problems to others – to others, but also to themselves. It is easier to deal with other people’s problems than your own. Gossips feel better when talking about others because they compare themselves to people who also don’t have roses blooming or are even worse off than them.
In fact, gossip can be a form of projection. Someone may be talking about someone else’s promiscuity or the way other people relate to their family. In that critique, the gossiping person may subconsciously project the feelings he or she has about his or her own sexuality or family relationships onto someone else!
Of course, people are naturally curious beings, and it is impossible not to tell about others, but when you want to tell someone a juicy story, or you are just listening to one, think what is the intention of that story?! Well, psychologists have a job to deal with others! Talking about other people is not bad if his intention is to understand human nature or improve the quality of life or the quality of relationships with other people but everyone will agree that it is wrong to attract attention or elevate oneself through the story of others. I am convinced that we all find it wrong to talk about others ugly just for the sake of the story, enjoying it, to spread a bad opinion about someone.
How to defend yourself from unwanted gossip?
Suppose someone is talking ugly about person X. It’s important not to support gossip with questions, interest, or agreement. It is best to simply change the subject. But you can also break the gossip with the following sentences:
“I see you talk a lot about X. I wonder why X interests you so much ?!”
“How about looking at it from X’s perspective? What would X say to that?”
“I’m more interested in what you’re doing, what’s happening to you than X.”
“Can we talk about something more positive/enjoyable?”
“I don’t feel comfortable hearing about negatively judging other people if we’re not looking for a way to help them.”
Remember that the person who tells you about X today will tell Y about you!
When we want to convey information, we need to ask ourselves if the information is something negative about a third person who is not there to defend himself, does spreading this information makes me feel better than the person I am talking about, do I use this information to work better? Answer these three questions before you pass on the information! Ask yourself why you used to gossip about someone before. What does that person have that you don’t have? How could you achieve what the person you were gossiping about already has?
You will feel great when you get rid of gossip or move away from people who are prone to it! Don’t attract attention by talking about how bad others are – attract her with your good sides and qualities! True, it is easier to undermine and denigrate others to make you act better, but for working on yourself and your potential you will be rewarded many times over, and the satisfaction is immense!