Gossip shouldn’t have such a bad reputation

Kathryn Waddington, a psychology researcher at the University of Westminster, has devoted much of her work to analyzing the role of gossip and other gossip. In the magazine The Conversationshe explores the evolution of their consideration in today’s world.

In cultural and media representations, gossiping is an activity often represented by the female gender. When the researcher analyzed the first hundred search results Google Images for English Translation of Gossip: “gossipshe found 62% images with only women and 31% images with both genders. However, scientists have proven that gender didn’t matter in the practice of this activity – everyone engages in the same level of gossip.

Forms of gossip can be identified throughout history, long before the advent of the series gossip girl (2007). It would actually be a way to share information and identify trustworthy people as a group. Word “gossipis itself dated to the Middle Ages, says the researcher. Originally “godsibbmeaning godfather or godmother in Old English, evolved into the person who helps the woman in labor and then, after multiple spelling changes, it became the colloquial speaking. You have to wait for witch hunts from the 16the in the XVIIIe century so that the word “gossip» takes on a more negative meaning: that of accusing a person of practicing witchcraft. Following this, it becomes the fact of “chirping between womenand remains tinged with sexism today.

However, during the same centuries, the habit of exchanging and communicating between men at the coffee table became popular and it is here that would take root “the myth that women gossip when men have serious conversationsexplains Kathryn Waddington.

Coffee Machine Conversations

The researcher conversely shows that gossip is used by both women and men in professional and political settings, sometimes even for the purpose of establishing strategies. She notes a gender difference in the choice of terms to designate the activity of gossip, the men interviewed prefer: “post-meeting debrief», «hallway conversations“, etc. And often the people who practice the activity are qualified as people “knowing how to listen” Where “with good social skills“.

The researcher also believes that gossip does not always bring with it the negative effects attributed to it, such as amplifying a phenomenon. Sometimes they are alsoassociated with compassionempathy or noticing the suffering of another“. Gossip is also a way to express emotions and let go. At work, it is often the first conversations to understand, between colleagues, that there is an organizational problem for example.

I’m not saying all gossip is good. […] Negative gossip is also used for harassing purposes, which is detrimental to well-being. The choice to gossip – or not – is always an ethical decision.writes Kathryn Waddington.

Scientific research has been interested in the subject for 25 years, so we increasingly perceive its advantages, especially since with the MeToo movement, the freedom of speech is encouraged. Following the pandemic and confinement, some have observed the return of conversations coffee machines as a fun way to socialize.

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Gossip shouldn’t have such a bad reputation

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