At a meeting I recently attended, three women started trashing a fourth — who, as you can imagine, wasn’t present.
For a moment — a very brief moment — I was tempted to join in. Because, as we all know from our years in middle school, the best way to get in with the cool kids is to agree with their assessments of everyone else in the cafeteria.
But here’s the thing: I don’t know the woman in question very well. I’ve heard some good things about her. And I’m not in middle school anymore.
Besides, I don’t believe in gossip.
Oh sure, I know gossip is a good way to establish social rank, share information, and create a group identity (i.e., you’re either with us or against us).
But it’s also dangerous and destructive, especially in professional settings. In fact, when I see others abstaining from office and professional gossip, I figure they’ve developed a fair amount of emotional intelligence over the years.
It’s mean: If we teach our kids not to speak unkindly of others, why should we engage in the practice ourselves?
It’s inaccurate: Most rumors only contain a fraction of the truth. So in addition to smearing a person’s reputation, you’re dealing in lies.
It may come back to haunt you: E-mails get forwarded. Conversations are overheard. Alliances shift. Would you want the subject of your gossip to hear what you said? If not, don’t say it.
It’s unseemly: Most of us gossip because we want to appear better than someone else or because we’re angry at someone and can’t deal with it head on. Is that how you want to be seen?