I heard on the grapevine that gossiping is healthy for humans. Scientific research supports this new theory. Apparently gossip helps people work as a team. Whoever said science was boring?
Egyptologists have uncovered hieroglyphics which contain sensational gossip about everything from the baldness of the queen to the planned assassination of the king. (Something is rotten in the state of…)
Social scientists believe that the content of gossip is universal: two-thirds of our daily conversation is gossip, and men (got you) are equally guilty as women. One study found that only men gossiped, not women. Since I have decided to tell the truth at all costs (I belong to a truthful gender) I’ll admit that that study was conducted by a woman.
People who say that they never have gossiped in their lives, are lying. What about those kindergarten days when you heard from your best friend that the new girl’s daddy had three cars and her mummy had a diamond as big as an egg? Didn’t you pass on nick names and warn your classmates about the bully next door?
In college, you heard that the beauty of the sophomore class had a crush on Weird Boy. They organised a play and Weird Boy handled the props. If you wondered out aloud “Oh please, is this romance?” you were being privy to gossip.
Now you work in an office – where fresh gossip hits you like a load of bricks every morning. If you still insist that you are not interested in gossip, please force yourself to remember that you read about Brad and Jen’s divorce from cover to cover and tut-tutted at Russell Crowe for doing something not worth crowing about.
The old adage – give a dog a bad name becomes relevant when research tells us that the slacker in a team generates maximum gossip from the rest. Character flaws of an individual form the juiciest gossip material and people pass this on to at least two others. During one study, some ranchers revealed that their neighbour’s failure to gossip about a neglected fence put the whole group at risk. How could you not gossip, mate?
As a journalist, I show interest in the gossip veins that course through the city. But I have seen juicy titbits being passed around all day; only to be refuted by a reliable source by evening. When two people lower their voice when you pass by; you do not need the brains of a rocket scientist (to use a much abused cliché) to figure out that they are passing on some information that’s not good for your ears. Victor Hugo knew from the way people huddled together when he left a room that they were going to talk about him. Not a nice feeling, that.
A person who shows no interest in our world must be bored indeed. When people pass by each other like two ships at sea, life becomes dull. Sarah Wert, a psychologist at Yale says that “Not participating in gossip at some level can be unhealthy, and abnormal.” I have to agree because without someone to talk about, I’d be jobless.
I stay clear of malicious gossip though. After all, hearing gossip is different from beginning to enjoy it. Saying that Bob and Teresa are dating is different from adding that bit about Teresa’s botched botox and Bob’s philandering ways.
I believe that those who gossip to you are more likely to gossip about you. And I know the difference between naïve gossips who warn you about the boss’s temper and the ones who itch to inform you about his drinking habit. Facial expressions are a give away too. The former have the classic naïve hearer look – mouth open, chin almost touching their chest – when they first hear the news, while the latter always look like hungry dogs, relishing a bone.
A great man once said that news should be repeated only if it is good, useful or true. Hold your tongue, because idle rumours can get twisted. You might be labelled the creator of that titbit. Worse still, you might become a natural tell tale.
Thou shall not lie or repeat lies.
By Linda Joseph Kavalackal,
Christ & Co.