Why do people gossip? Here’s some interesting research on the evolutionary reasons behind gossip – and what to do about it so it doesn’t get to you.
First, I’ll start with some interesting research about gossip – which shows gossip to have a positive benefit – research you might find surprising!
Then I’ll explore how best to deal with gossip!
According to psychologist Robin Dunbar we’re evolutionary hard-wired for gossip.
It is the human equivalent of the “social grooming” seen among our primate cousins – where they pick out nits and twigs from each other’s fur, to bond and feel close.
Hmmm….you know that positive phrase “to keep in touch with someone”? It sorta sounds like the definition of animals’ “Nit-n-Twig Plucking with each other”… doesn’t it?
Basically, gossip is what we humans use to compete for and attract sexual partners, because it’s how we ‘advertise’ or ‘self-promote’ our social status, values, and intelligence.
It’s what reveals which behaviors you and other people find acceptable – or unacceptable – and thereby if you find your gossiper or gossipee acceptable or unacceptable for further socialization purposes!
With this in mind, if you want to become a far more popular member of a group (aka your office, an organization, a local community) just listen more carefully to this group’s critical gossip.
You’ll quickly discover people’s boundaries and rules – and thereby know what to do – or not do – to make sure you’re a welcomed member of this group!
Here’s another unusual positive benefit to gossip!
Just as “social grooming” between primates stimulates endorphins, making animals more relaxed – the “vocal grooming” we call gossip has also been researched to relax humans and lower blood pressure.
It’s what keeps us feeling connected and bonded – like we are part of a group – rather than socially isolated. The more connected people feel, the better their health.
Obviously all of this research offers a wildly positive outlook on gossip.
Meanwhile, back in reality… let’s face it: gossip can hurt!
I don’t know if animals feel pain in their “social grooming” version of gossip – when they’re picking out nits and twigs from each other’s fur!
However I do know that in our human version of gossip, picking on one another can feel highly painful!
If someone’s gossiping about you negatively, it helps if you remind yourself that it’s usually because they are trying to bring you down to raise themselves up – because they feel low self esteem.
Stop wasting time wondering what others think about you.
It’s more important what you think of you. Are you living true to your heart – and kind to the hearts of others?
Feel free to check in with yourself – and often.
Remember, if someone has a full and happy life, they won’t have time to sit around talking about you!
If you really want to bond and connect with someone, do so by sharing what you love, appreciate, value, and dream about!
If you’re having a difficult time feeling happy, check out the resiliency psychology techniques found in Karen’s Salmansohn’s best selling book THINK HAPPY.
Hi I’m Karen Salmansohn, founder of NotSalmon. My mission is to offer you easy-to-understand insights and tools to empower you to bloom into your happiest, highest potential self. I use playful analogies, feisty humor, and stylish graphics to distill big ideas – going as far back as ancient wisdom from Aristotle, Buddhism and Darwin to the latest research studies from Cognitive Therapy, Neuro Linquistic Programming, Neuroscience, Positive Psychology, Quantum Physics, Nutritional Studies – and then some.
Live your happiest life. Get my research-based happiness newsletter delivered conveniently to your inbox.