Gossip Is Healthy for You (Pass It On!)

women gossiping

Pssst, c'mere. You want to know a dirty little secret about gossip? It's actually good for you! Yep, a new study from the University of California, Berkeley, has found that swapping scuttlebutt not only provides benefits to us as a society -- curtailing bad behavior, helping others from unfairly being taken advantage of -- but also as individuals, lowering our stress levels by allowing us to warn others about bad behavior.

In other words, if we see or experience someone doing a bad thing, we feel much better (more in control, less upset) if we can alert others about it. In cases like this, researchers have concluded, gossip is positively therapeutic.

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There -- don't you feel better already? Look, I've always tried not to engage in mean-spirited chatter, feeling it's not just hurtful for the subject but also reflects poorly on the gossiper and the listener. However, as someone who for years wrote a celebrity gossip column, I do believe gossip can sometimes serve an important -- and often beneficial -- role for us collectively and personally.

Often, we really do need to process our responses -- and warn people about wrongdoers -- by sharing information with other people. (Think how much worse having a nasty boss would be if you didn't have colleagues to confide in and commiserate with!) And knowing that people might say negative things about us really can function as a corrective. (Perhaps that nasty boss would be even nastier if he didn't think you might alert others to his or her behavior.)

Does that mean you can make up rumors about someone and feel good about it? No, but I would contend that swapping accurate information about other people can help us forge bonds as a community and establish norms of behavior -- in a way that can be (though isn't always) healthy. So, yes, the rumor is probably true: Gossip -- as long as it's not cruel or conniving -- isn't always such a bad thing. Pass it on!

Do you think gossip can be healthy?


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