Gossip is a dirty word to many people. It has pretty bad connotations and is blamed for workplace issues, hurt feelings and more. And yet, we have all gossiped at some point in our lives – granted some more than others. I think we’ve all had those times in our lives when we confide in someone only to hear later that it became the talk around town so to speak. It hurts to find out that someone you trusted with your inner feelings has betrayed your trust. I don’t think this form of gossip ever has a place in relationships whether they’re work or personal.
But then there’s another kind of gossip. The kind where we vent to someone about what’s going on in the workplace or discuss the potentially abusive relationship of a friend. Are these kinds of gossip ‘bad’ or do they have their uses? It’s a fine line I know, but we need to talk to each other about issues rather than hiding them. It’s important to get things out into the light where they can be worked on rather than turn a blind eye to things that go against our principles. This doesn’t have to be mean spirited, and I think that’s the real issue that people have with gossip.
Gossip can be a form of social monitoring. When we see something happening that borders on unethical we are compelled to talk about it. There are times that we band together to call out a corporation on their poor practices or relations by talking to one another about the issues (and posting in social media these days). It shines a light on things so that we aren’t completely in the dark and purchasing from a company whose ethics are in conflict with our own. On a smaller scale, if we have a co-worker bullying others, don’t we need to talk about that in order to stop it? If we are always afraid to speak about things going on we can’t begin to bring the positive changes we need in our world.
Gossip also helps individuals bond. Like it or not when there is a mutual sharing of information about others, we feel closer. If you’re sharing with the right person you may also be able to gain insights into your own psyche to discover why the behaviours you disagree with are such an issue for you. Talking it out can also lessen the impact that the subject of gossip has on you- your reactions can become more thought out, more useful. This isn’t to say that the words need to leave that confidential conversation. That’s when we start to cause trouble.
The big question to ask yourself is ‘why do I want to share this information?’. If there’s no real reason to share it other than passing it on, why do it? These words attributed to Buddha put it beautifully:
“If you propose to speak, always ask yourself, is it true, is it necessary, is it kind?”
When our intention is to spread loving kindness (metta) throughout our lives we can’t go wrong. We stand up for what we believe in, take care of ourselves and others and disagree with behaviour without forgetting that there is a soul behind the actions. This can lessen our own frustration and dissipate the need for gossip. We are all on a journey of discovery in this life and we need to support each other to the best of our capabilities. And always remember to gossip about the good being done in the world; that’s how we spread it after all.