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Gossip is a social skill - not a character flaw

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  • Sep 18th, 2018 10:40 pm
[OP]
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Dec 7, 2009
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Gossip is a social skill - not a character flaw

The title of my thread shares the title of this 2016 article from Psychology Today.

Now I want to preface this by saying how much this article upset me when I read it, only to realize that it upset me because I realized there was some truth to it. Let me distill the points.

- Gossip is a highly social, evolved behaviour
- Avoiding gossip could get you socially isolated, or even fired
- Fear of being talked about keeps us honest
- Trust is formed by mutually dissecting a 3rd party
- Gossiping establishes group norms
- Gossiping allows us to establish a social hierarchy

That's an impressive list of endorsements for something that is generally agreed to be ugly behaviour. Having been on the caboose of the gossip train a few times, I've always prided myself on staying principled and keeping my mouth shut about people, unless I felt the conversation was constructive. I've actively said 'Why are you telling me this?' in response to gossip. But what I gained in respect, I may have sacrificed in political gain.

What are your thoughts of gossip in the workplace, or in social circles?
In a perfect system, corporations would fear the government and the government would fear the people. - David Wong

Check out caRpetbomBer's picks in this thread.
17 replies
Member
Jan 12, 2017
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Never thought of it this way, but thinking about some people I work with who have tons of experience and in very senior positions, but just aren't respected (indirectly forcing them to be positional leaders), this totally makes sense.

I think a complementary 'skill' is being able to bullshit appropriately. In fact, this one is possibly even more essential...
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Apr 30, 2011
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RICHMOND HILL
Gossip is ultimately predatory in nature.

Having done it myself, I find myself less trusting of the people around me, since I realize that they may do it to me too.
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Aug 17, 2009
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I disagree. This is just one study. It doesn't make it true. Gossip is a character flaw. It leads to trouble, almost always. I can recall a number of times where gossip forced people to quit their jobs. It also has the potential to lead to verbal/physical altercations.
Corvus oculum corvi non eruit.
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May 10, 2001
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I have a friend whose wife is quite a gossip and always keep my cards close to my vest around her. Always keep in mind the maxim: "Those who gossip to you will gossip about you."

Unfortunately it's kept us from forming a closer friendship bond since I feel I always have to be on guard around her.
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Dec 15, 2017
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In jail it will get you stitches or even killed.
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Aug 31, 2017
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Good try OP.

I think they’re mixing up gossip with small talk.

Disclaimer: I did not read the article just your cliff notes.
Penalty Box
Dec 27, 2013
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uve never told a trusted colleague that one of your bosses is an idiot?
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Apr 30, 2011
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RICHMOND HILL
I don't think it's a flaw in itself, but it's definitely better to know when to do it.

Yes it might enhance your social standing for the short term, but social standing means nothing if you don't have material and fiscal superiority to back it up. That's why I think gossipping has little value when it comes to the lower levels of an organization, and is most useful for an individual at the middle levels of an organization - basically managers and directors vying for positions, perks and funding. Gossipping at the higher levels of an organization can be disastrous for the whole organization, since decision making should be done with consensus, so it's best avoided there too.
Sr. Member
Mar 24, 2015
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Ottawa, ON
Fanboy wrote:
Sep 17th, 2018 10:08 am
I have a friend whose wife is quite a gossip and always keep my cards close to my vest around her. Always keep in mind the maxim: "Those who gossip to you will gossip about you."

Unfortunately it's kept us from forming a closer friendship bond since I feel I always have to be on guard around her.
Exactly this.
I have a sister-in-law like that, man does she gossip. She never stops talking about other people and even her best friends. My husband and I, we just listen, never give our opinion, and most important of all, we never tell her anything. So she's always asking questions etc, and we give her very brief answers. I can see how annoyed she gets Smiling Face With Open Mouth And Smiling Eyes It's too bad that she then uses her husband (husband's brother) to get the information she needs when she can't get them.
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Trump University
TBH it only works as a social skill around dumb people but it won't work if the people are average intelligence or above

Not to stereotype cause there are smart and dumb people in all jobs
But in general if you work in an environment where the people are of ok intelligence like say a professional atmosphere, it will never work. People are too smart to fall for it. This is equivalent to say middle class.

If you work in a less professional atmosphere like say a prostitute then yeah there will be lots of gossip and it will help you cause you can gaslight people into your version of reality, your narrative. This is equivalent to lower class

When you get into the upper echelon eg. The big boys club, then gossip might possibly work in your favor again because now it becomes an issue of trust and no one really "needs" you to climb anywhere. For instance can you trust someone to be corrupt with you? If you can't then they are no good. This is kinda elitist. They're giving you valuable information (gossip) can you reciprocate that? I kinda been here where this partner I was working with was telling me how crazy a bitch this CEO was I was working with too. In a situation like this it's uncomfortable for me personally so kinda just laugh and don't say anything but I don't think that is too good socially in this class
RFD Meanie 😎
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Burlington
Always keep your mouth shut, and never rat on your friends.
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Aug 26, 2018
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It's not a social skill. Especially not if it backfires.

A social skill is different to garnering advantages in life. A social skill's purpose is to make you more likable among your cohorts. I'm not sure gossiping necessarily makes you more popular among people.

It can make you popular in some instances where it creates a circle of comradery when gossip is among like-minded individuals against someone they have shared dislike of. Or it can make you 'popular' in terms of ruling with fear, sort of the mean girls concept or the Trumpian way.

It might get you advantages in life if your gossip takes down others which by it's nature props you up. Or if you can create a circle of minions around you enforced via fear of being 'out'. But again, advantages in life from gossiping isn't a social skill.

Gossip can also backfire in a number of ways. The person you are gossiping to might see you as two faced and never trusts you. That's number one. Your gossip might eventually make it's way to the target, and they might find out about you resulting in retaliatory actions that then affect your life in a negative way. So even the social skill idea is a tossup. It really depends how the gossip scenario plays out. You cannot guarantee an advantage.

My conclusion is gossip is certainly no social skill. Being able to read emotions and having a high EQ is a social skill. But talking behind people's backs just makes you a sociopath.
[OP]
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Interesting to note all the people who are anti gossip. I'm really interested in the views of the people who are good at gossiping, but I suspect they won't stick their heads out, as is their nature.

I've seen managers and directors gussy it up to make it look like gossip is in some sort of interest to the company. This is what you often see on the director/manager level.

ie. "Did you see what Bill posted on Facebook? That might make the company look bad"

or

"Did you hear Nick and Sheila hooked up after the Christmas party. Sheila is married!"

.. and it's this stuff that tends to stick with people. You'll never get written up for it, never be spoken to about it, but if enough dumb crap like this happens then you'll be systematically pushed to the sidelines of a company until you quit or get restructured out.
In a perfect system, corporations would fear the government and the government would fear the people. - David Wong

Check out caRpetbomBer's picks in this thread.
Deal Fanatic
Nov 17, 2004
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Toronto
I often regret saying too much rather than saying too little. I can not identify with gossip being helpful.
I workout to get big so I can pickup bricks and ****.

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