Why do people gossip? Here’s some interesting research on the evolutionary reasons behind gossip. Plus I’ll help you to feel less hurt about those who might be gossiping about 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, here’s a helpful tool.
You must remind yourself that they are trying to bring you down to raise themselves up.
Basically, they feel low self esteem.
Stop wasting time wondering what others think about you. It’s more important what you think of you.
Feel free to check in with yourself – and often.
If someone has a full and happy life, they won’t have time to sit around talking about you!
And if you really want to bond and connect with someone, do so by sharing what you love.
As soon as someone tries to gossip with you, switch the conversation.
Start to talk about all the things each of you appreciate, value, and dream about!
If you’re having a difficult time feeling happy, check out the resiliency psychology techniques found in my best selling book Think Happy.