I bet your immediate reaction was to say no! I also bet that you do it all the time. Unless you're completely antisocial, you talk to people about other people. That's all gossip is and it's part of being human ...
The theory goes that it's the major reason we developed language in the first place. So we are programmed to gossip and equally programmed to take in gossip we hear.
As social animals, it is part of how we assess all the other people we know and how we establish our place in the group.
Other people can give us useful information about members of the group that helps us to decide who we can trust and why. Gossip often takes the forms of stories about things they have said or done. We add this to our own experience of that person to give a fuller rounded picture. It might confirm our impression or give us a useful new viewpoint.
Northeastern University professor Dr. Jack Levin, author of Gossip: The Inside Scoop, says it can actually be good for our emotional health. He states that it is the glue that holds communities together.
Gossip is often the way we find out about others' good and bad news and who needs our support and understanding at present. This sharing makes us feel part of the group.
Sharing stories about a third party's transgressions is one way we learn about what is and what is not acceptable behaviour when mixing with this group of people. Who is in favour and who has transgressed recently, who is considered important, who will be helpful, who is discreet and reliable and who is not.
Gossip establishes our place in the group. We both gossip and are gossiped about. As much as we gauge other people's reputations from what others say about them, so they do the same about us. One way they make this judgment is who we gossip about and what we say.
When I was writing this blog post I looked up Google images for ideas.
Overwhelmingly, the pictures were of women with scandalous expressions whispering in each other's ears. Actually, research says that both men and women gossip, although women tend to discuss personal stuff like "I can't believe she said that!" whilst men talk of status "did you hear he's bought a new car?".
By its very nature, gossip is informal and not necessarily true. It often takes place when we are off guard and not thinking about how we come across, the casual remark or off-the-cuff observation. So it is open to being spiteful, hurtful and being manipulated by people with unpleasant agendas.
And that's where the negative connotations about gossiping come from and what made you say no to my question in the first place. Who wants others to be saying you're spiteful and manipulative behind your back?
My Referral tip for you this week is. Accept gossip as a valuable part of your networking activity.
- Get into the habit of saying positive things about people in informal settings. Don't wait for the testimonial section of your networking meeting to endorse others, why not recount good stories about them over coffee before the meeting starts.
- When you hear negative things about other people do pay attention, as it may be valuable information. Whilst most people have positive intentions, they don't always get it right. So do check it out before accepting what you hear as true and worth repeating.
- How much do you trust the teller? Could they have another agenda?
- Does it fit with what you already know about the person being talked about?
- Is there another side to this story you haven't heard yet?
- Ignore negative gossip unless you've heard it from two other sources.
- If it affects you, seek further information to disprove what you've heard.
- Be prepared to change your opinion. Check your own agenda is positive.
- Manage your own reputation as a gossip. You want to be known as a valuable source of information rather than the source of malicious rumours in your community.
So go on and have a good gossip with the people you know. After all, you're only human!
If you'd like to learn more about referral marketing then do give me a call on 07970 638857 and let's have a chat and see how I can help you.