The TV show Gossip Girl may have wrapped up recently, but it’s doubtful that actual gossip is going away any time soon. Despite the catty images that gossip may draw up for you, it actually turns out that gossip may have a good side.
A new study about gossip found that the act of gossiping could stem from more positive intentions to protect those around us from individuals whose tendency to slack off could hurt our peers.
Two experiments were conducted with college students, and the first one looked at the reasons behind why they would gossip: swapping info, being part of a fun social activity, and “group protection” were found to be the top three reasons. The negative motivations behind gossiping was ranked last.
A second experiment involved a hypothetical co-worker who wasn’t pulling their weight. Students said they were more likely to gossip about that individual with another co-worker primarily because they didn’t want the slacking co-worker’s behavior to start hurting the others.
One of the researchers made the point that even though really intentionally hurtful gossip may not happen as much, it can have really huge negative consequences. For me though, even that chance makes me want to deal very carefully with the whole topic of gossip. Regardless of intentions, whoever the gossip is about really has the final say in if the gossip has a positive or a negative effect.
I’ve done many group projects and I know how annoying it is when it seems a certain group member will just not do any work. It can feel good to vent out that frustration. If you know someone else who may have to work with that person in the future, it seems logical to share your experience so that they may not have to go through the same thing.
My concern though is that the “warning” others keeps the initial person out of loop, and it could keep an actual issue from being addressed. Maybe the person doesn’t understand the material or maybe something was going on in their life, and by talking about it to people besides them — even if you’re just trying to help the others — could maybe backfire.
Gossip is kind of complicated , and one of the researchers even said it can be a “challenge” to separate the good gossip from the bad. I totally get the mentality behind the study, and I’m not going to act like I’ve never gossiped before. Basically though, I just wouldn’t take this information as a free pass to start talking about whomever and rely only on your seemingly good motivation. Whatever your intentions are, to me it still seems a little risky and considering there is the potential for some really tragic consequences to come out of gossip, it may be best to think really carefully about how to best bring up certain subjects of concern with your peers.
What is your definition of gossiping? Do you think gossiping is always a bad thing? Have you ever hurt someone’s feelings over gossip without meaning to? Let us know in the comments!