But it would be naïve to think that gossip has no purpose whatsoever. Multiple studies have shown that gossip is an important way of sharing information (“Watch out, she’s not trustworthy”), of learning the rules of social behavior (“Oh I guess it’s not OK to get totally trashed at the office party”), and of keeping people morally accountable (“If I have an affair with him, the whole building will talk ”). Gossip can also trigger compassion (“I had no idea her husband was an alcoholic — no wonder she’s on edge.”) and detachment (“She treats you like an idiot, too? I’m so glad it’s not just me.”)
In fact, some researchers have found that gossiping too little is as dangerous as gossiping too much — because people who don’t gossip at all miss out on crucial social information and important social skills.
In other words, those who stay away from gossip altogether become “out of it.”
That said, it’s important to remember a few rules — gossip for the sake of destroying someone’s reputation is not OK. Gossip for the sake of making yourself look superior to someone else is gross. Following the herd mentality when someone is being trashed — and you know the information is wrong — is weak.
So if you’re going to gossip, do it well. Do it with intention. Do it with some awareness of what’s motivating you and how you should behave.
When do you think gossip’s ok? And what kind of gossip seems really wrong?