About two weeks back I received a phone call from a friend I hadn’t spoken to in ages. At first the conversation was wonderful, she filled me in on how she was doing, what was new in her life and then she began to share what was happening with some of our friends. She seemed to have the scoop on everyone and as I listened I began to feel a bit uncomfortable with the conversation.
Upon reflection I realized my guilt; listening to gossip is as bad as being the one sharing the gossip. I have taken all three roles; I have been the one gossiping, the one listening and certainly the one being gossiped about.
Why do we gossip? We know it is wrong, we know it makes us look small, we know often the truth of others is not shared and yet, we do it in all kinds of ways.
I suspect this pandemic has increased our bad habit of gossiping. To be the one gossiping means we are the one who possesses some juicy information. This feeds our ego and makes us appear important and for a few minutes we hold a position of superiority and attention getting. We savor this kind of attention. As social beings we want to be the “top dog”, the one everyone looks to for information. Given all the isolation of the last 16 months it isn’t surprising that some are filling their need for attention by gossiping even if it is at the expense of the truth.
Also, gossip can be used to create social alliances. Have you ever noticed that those who gossip tend to hang out together? The unspoken norm is you can be part of our “group” if you believe and agree with what we say and greater status is given to those who are good at spreading the gossip or those who bring the group new gossip. Those who choose not to gossip or who question the validity of the information tend not to be accepted by the group, or even worse, become the target of the gossipers.
The saying is true, “Gossip ends at a wise person’s ear.” Those who possess certain wisdom are not usually the ones caught in spreading, listening to or entertaining any form of gossip.
It is my hope we can emerge from this pandemic a wiser, kinder and better version of our pre-pandemic selves. Let’s make the commitment to be honest in our conversations and careful in our care of each other.
Photo by Ben White used with permission/Unsplash