“Great minds discuss ideas. Average minds discuss events. Small minds discuss people.”
― Henry Thomas Buckle
As harsh as this might sound, anyone who tells you they don’t “gossip” on some level is a blatant liar. Gossiping is as common and natural to human beings as breathing, and therefore is an unavoidable part of our social makeup.
Dr. Peggy Drexler writes on psychologytoday.com, “Anthropologists believe that throughout human history, gossip has been a way for us to bond with others—and sometimes a tool to isolate those who aren’t supporting the group.”
Drexler is 100% correct – gossiping does create a bond with those we otherwise would struggle to maintain a relationship with, by uniting others with a common interest. Sadly that “common interest” happens to be talking about others behind their backs.
But I think the real purpose of gossiping has far less to do with establishing bonds, and more to do with our own inner insecurities.
Sean Covey in The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens writes, “Isn’t it kind of silly to think that tearing someone else down builds you up?”
In order to conceal our shortcomings or secure our dominance over others, gossiping (which, let’s face it, is riddled with negativity) allows us to manipulate the perception of others – casting a light of greatest upon ourselves, while defacing the character of someone typically less deserving.
Steve Maraboli (Life, the Truth and Being Free) writes, “How would your life be different if…You walked away from gossip and verbal defamation? Let today be the day…You speak only the good you know of other people and encourage others to do the same.”
What a noble and highly improbable challenge for humanity to undertake.
It’s sad how easily mankind can find things to criticize and judge other people about (often behind their backs), and how rarely they ever have a kind word to say.
I’m human, and therefore I readily admit to such behaviors somewhat shamefully. Maybe I need to stop the cycle (or at least reduce it greatly) and try only to speak of the good I know of someone. Perhaps it will become contagious and others will in turn do the same.
Don’t turn to gossiping as a means to bond with someone or find an ally for support. Instead live with compassion and integrity – understanding that it really IS silly (no make that stupid) to spread negative gossip about someone else, simply so you feel better about yourself.