Let’s be real, you have been the victim of gossip in your life, maybe even more times than you can count. I have experienced gossip through out my entire life. Gossip has made me feel betrayed, angry, misunderstood, and helpless.
Unfortunately, I have been the victimizer of gossip as well. However, I have never made it a habit to use this as a tool for my own self-esteem. The urge to participate in it is a constant battle to be won.
Critically judging others has a way of making us feel better about ourselves. It give us this feeling of power over other people’s choices and a sense of control over what we deem should be normal. Gossip is a quick way to passively vent and bond with the person we are gossiping with at the time.
Yet, gossip is harmful and damaging when done excessively. It’s not only damaging for the victim, but the victimizers as well.
What’s The Research
First off, what is gossip? Gossip is basically conversation centered around the personal and/or private affairs of others. It involves repeating what was told, rumors, and idle talk about said person.
The author of the study, Tania Reynolds, a doctoral student in Florida State University’s Department of Psychology, found that women spread rumors about other women who appeared to pose a threat, whether that meant they were dressed provocatively or were considered prettier.
“I hypothesized that women would use gossip to undermine the social appeal of their most threatening romantic rivals,” she says. “That is, women would strategically target other women who were appealing to men. When I read ethnographies about high schoolers and middle schoolers, this is exactly the pattern that you find. Girls who are pretty, liked by boys, popular, flirtatious, or sexually active are the ones most likely to be victimized by other girls’ rumors and ostracism. So, I decided to manipulate various forms of romantic threat in my investigation,” Reynolds says.
“Across all five studies, women indeed undermined the reputations of those who were more threatening romantic rivals,” Reynolds explains.
But get this: the study found that women even gossiped when they liked the woman they were denigrating.
“My research did find that women tarnished the reputations of appealing women regardless of whether they explicitly liked those women,” she says. “This pattern suggests that women may spread the reputation-damaging information of their friends. Indeed, some research finds that mutual gossip is common among female friends. In study five, many of the women who gossiped about the female research assistant did so with concern. This made me wonder whether that is one of the strategies women use to pass on gossip. That is, by framing their gossip with concern (‘I am just worried about her’) women can spread one another’s information without coming across as mean. If that is case, then women may be gossiping without even realizing they are gossiping, suggesting they could be transmitting information that their female friends do not want disclosed.”
“We have this common idea that only unattractive girls and women are bullied,” she says, adding, “However, the ethnographic research, along with my own studies, suggest it is the attractive, sexually open women that are most viciously targeted.”
Yet, all hope isn’t lost!
“We can make strategic decisions to reduce that in ourselves . . . and choose our friends carefully. If a woman is gossiping to us, she’s probably also gossiping about us,” she says.
Well, why do women gossip?
Research has already shown that shared dislikes between two people tend to create a stronger bond than their common likes; this is why the bonds between gossipers appear to be strong. However, their bond is fragile at best. Typically, this bond will be tested by…gossip. Also, people that struggle with taming their judgemental inner critic are almost always found out to be untrustworthy. Seriously, who trusts a gossiper? Once you find out that a person gossips about any and everyone, then that means they’re gossiping about you too!
Projection of Insecurity
Whether people want to admit it or not, we all have our own insecurities and bouts with self-esteem issues. The manner in which one chooses to grapple with the complexities of understanding self is solely up to that individual. Gossip is another avenue in which a person can seek validation or to feel as though they are more than who their negative inner critic says they are daily.
So, they find a target that they deem a threat and unleash their fangs. If they feel the gossip is true that makes the assault all the more fun for them. Instead of focusing and bettering the places of themselves that they feel is unworthy of love, they choose to disparage their target with relentless attacks. In short, most gossipers and bullies are highly insecure individuals.
See, gossip is an immature way to deal with an issue. Gossipers choose to vent about their frustrations and issues about person, instead of engaging in healthy confrontation. A person who is a chronic gossiper is actively choosing to remain emotionally immature. These type of people need an outlet to deal with their emotions, but have yet to find a healthy ways to address them.
Different Environment Same Problem
Gossiping doesn’t change because of demographics, location, and time. Workplace gossip exists all the same. On top of intimidation from beauty, scarcity of resources makes the assault more aggressive.
Don’t get me started on social media! Social media gives people security of passivity behind their computer. Gaslighting is at the forefront because they can easily deny and absolve themselves when confronted.
Let’s be clear, gossip isn’t gender exclusive. Men gossip about women too. Especially women that have hurt them or they secretly wish would give them the time of day.
All Gossip Isn’t Bad?
Gossip can actually help warn others of abusers, users, and all around dishonest people. In this, people can share their experiences that they’ve had with a common person to compare their hurt/betrayal.
So, it then isn’t gossiping, is it? At that point, you’re not gossiping, but confiding in someone about your experience.
If two people have a common friend (or family member) that may be in harm’s way, then gossiping can aid in those two friends formulating a plan to help their friend.
When gossiping is used to show genuine care and concern, then it is without malicious intent.
When you find yourself gossiping, ask yourself these questions:
- What is this doing for me?
- Why am I talking about this?
- How does this make me feel?
- Does this conversation make me feel more or less safe?
- Does this conversation make me feel more or less connected?
- Do I plan to use this information to help or to simply pass it to another person?
- Does my friend/family member want me to share this information?
If you know me personally, then you know I’m all about the empowerment of women, especially for my black and brown women. This isn’t to tear anyone down, but to shed light on how idle chatter can be indicative of internal conflict.