As people we love to talk, we love to socialise and network. Dale Carnegie had a great quote: –
“You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you.”
I suppose your wondering where I’m going with all this? Well it’s the “why” we as a species like to talk and network or dare I say it, “Gossip.”
Gossip can be a very good vehicle for moving a story on, or for-shadowing a future event. Two characters discussing another character is very helpful when you need an aspect of their personality for-shadowed.
So to understand Gossip we need to know why we do it in the first place.
We can express ourselves through the arts, I.e., music, religion, writing, politics, and even science. But what do we talk about most of the time? It’s not the above list I’m sure. I have read that two-thirds of all human conversation is gossip. This may come as an unwelcome reminder of our interest in the personal lives of others. But if you think about it most gossip is not negative. Most is just chitchat about who is having a baby or what colour someone’s going to paint the lounge. Whatever the moral status, gossip serves an important evolutionary purpose. It’s like a verbal grooming, ape’s pick each others flea’s and stroke each others fur. As for our social grooming, we talk and gossip.
The term gossip once meant, “A person related to one in God, The word later came to mean a close (female) friend or companion. This later translated into the modern definition of gossip, “small talk, and rumour” or “to talk about the affairs of others,” I like this one.
Somewhere along the line of our evolution, we evolved the capacity for language; gossip replaced our physical social grooming. According to Robin Dunbar, a professor at the University of Liverpool and a leading researcher on human gossip, “language evolved specifically for the purpose of gossip.” It functions to make a bond within your social group, It can resolve conflicts, build social networks, clarifying social status, also it can help to influence others. Gossip is therefore a powerful way of strengthening the social bonds we already have.
Stated by Kate Fox, “Gossip generally involves more than the sharing of information about people’s lives and relationships: it usually involves the expression of opinions or feelings about this information.” Although opinions may not be directly stated, they may be heavily implied through tone of voice or body language. It shows their views on the subject matter. It’s not necessarily negative. However, this is not to say that negative views do not exist, as they definitely do; and these negative comments serve a very important function.
When someone engages in negative gossip with a trustworthy person they are strengthening the social bond with that person.
Although other animals have mating calls and grunts, only the human species uses language to such a degree. Gossip is what humans use to establish and maintain relationships, resolve conflicts, build social networks, influence others. Gossip undoubtedly works as a social mechanism. So when someone asks if you’re gossiping, answer with a big fat “YES”. As, we are all very good at it.