Why, one might ask, am I referring to gossip as an art? Well, gossip isn't usually perpetrated by little children or less than intelligent adults. Gossip is a tool which is used by highly insecure people from all ages and backgrounds to defame another human being whom the gossiper feels threatened by or otherwise wants out of their way. Gossip is often employed by people who have a high level of social intelligence or at least awareness to achieve their own ends. Gossip can be crude or very elaborate depending upon who employs it as a tool. Being able to get the reaction one wants out of a separate, fully functioning human being is something that many people (unfortunately) work at. Thus, the title of "art" applies to gossip in the worst sense of the word, and quite well I might add. Here, we will examine some of the effects, many of the motivations behind and also some easy ways to identify and respond to gossip.
Isn't it funny to hear about things we've supposedly done or said from other people? Especially from those who either don't know us or have little to no contact with us? So much gossip comes from people who we've let go from our lives or lost contact with through no fault of either party. It may come from those who are currently in our lives who are envious of us or who see us as a threat, or it may come for people who wish they were closer to us-who idealize us or who we idealize. Gossip comes from so many different places and happens for so many different reasons--none of them good.
When I hear malicious gossip, especially malicious gossip masquerading as good intention and/or concern, i.e. "I just care so much about so and so that I needed to let the entire world know his/her business and what I think about him/her"? I think, 'what a load of hokum. Who would possibly believe that?' I should note that my ability to see gossip for what it is stems from experience with it as many of us have also had. If we're honest with ourselves, we can all admit to having been on both the giving and receiving end of gossip at some point in our lives. But it should be noted that most healthy, kind, functioning human beings do not engage in malicious gossip, just as they don't engage in literally stabbing people in the back when they see the chance for it.
But back to the subject we were just discussing, which is... how can anyone possibly buy into the idea that the person who is doing the gossiping is doing it for the good of the individual who is the subject of the gossip? Here's the deal: many of us want to see the best in people and take people at face value. Unfortunately, there are people out there who aren't as genuine and aren't as real and it's easy for them to take advantage (or try to) of the good hearted people out there.
When the subject of gossip comes up, what strikes me is that people are willing to believe what's being said, especially when it's about someone they know well and could easily just ask after in person in order to get to the bottom of whatever is going on. Unfortunately, sometimes people don't want to get to the bottom of things. They want to believe what they want to believe-for a variety of reasons. But people who go around gossiping and believing gossip are likely to get burned in the end.
In my profession, I deal quite a lot with the damaging effects of slander and gossip, gossip among lovers, gossip so-called friends and even gossip among family members, all of which can be hurtful, if not devastating not only to the subjects of said gossip, but to all involved. Unfortunately, many of us deal with similar situations in our daily lives.
Here's how I see it. We have a responsibility as good citizens to uphold the social contract that we have made with those around us by allowing them into our lives (and vice versa) in the first place. In large part, this contract is about being upfront and respectful with people whenever possible. When faced with gossip, it's our responsibility to deal with it appropriately. Remember, bullies exist because what they're doing works (at least temporarily to some extent, until it comes back to bite them). It's human psychology to label others with behaviors that we ourselves exhibit, so next time you hear some juicy gossip, consider the source, consider the subject (the individual or individuals who is/are being gossiped about) and consider what's actually being said. Nine times out of ten, the person who is doing the gossiping is labeling the subject or subjects of their gossip with traits and qualities that they themselves possess and actions they themselves have taken, if not ones that they take frequently. Now, does this mean that we need to morph into unbelievably annoying tattle tales who leave no thoughts unspoken and who then become gossips on turn? If anything, we need to treat carefully here and use the judicious application of honesty, tempered with wisdom and maturity. Each situation is different. There is no all-encompassing standard which applies to each and every stance of gossip that we may encounter. I do aim, however, to give you, the reader, some helpful guidelines to follow and to expose some of the reasons why gossip may be occurring in the hopes that it will help you as you move forward in your life, since as I said before, and as I'm sure all of you who are reading this already know from experience, it is highly unlikely that you will live the entirety of your natural life without ever experiencing gossip again, so odds are, this article will come in handy.
But back to why gossip takes place...
Let's say for example, that Jane says that Linda is sexually promiscuous or is bad at her job, it is likely that those adjectives apply in some way to Jane. Maybe Jane doesn't give her all at the office. Maybe Jane herself makes bad sexual decisions or maybe she is in fact interested in the individual that Linda happens to be seeing, and so it benefits Jane on many levels to defame Linda or to get Linda out of the picture. And if Jane isn't that calculating, maybe she just can't help but give voice to her own personal issues due to jealousy. As I said earlier, there are many, many reasons why gossip takes place. That, my friends, is where critical thinking comes in.
We need to use our critical thinking skills and better judgment when it comes to gossip. Is someone in your life doing a lot of finger pointing and gossiping about other people? If so, it may not be the other people who are at fault. It may be the person who's perpetrating the gossip to begin with who has the problem. It's also important to consider whether you want a person who trashes their friends, family and/or co-workers in your life, because as much as they're gossiping about "Linda," they're likely also gossiping about you. Gossip, bullying and slander are the tools of less evolved people. My advice? Don't encourage that type of behavior. You're not the only wise and all-knowing individual who the gossiper comes to with their gossip, even if, as it often is, it's being brought to you under the guise of looking for advice. So be honest with yourself. Live up to your own potential. You're better than that. We need to lift each other up, not tear each other down. Do you have experience with #gossip? Would you like to share your story? If so, I'd love to hear it. It may even help someone else who's struggling with a similar situation right now. Comment below.
As always, guys, keep it classy!