Homer Simpson once said, “If we aren’t supposed to eat animals, why are they made of meat?” Today we will talk about gossip. We aren’t supposed to gossip. If everyone knows gossiping is bad, why do people do it?
The answer is simple. We humans spent most of our history in small tribes, and it is vital in a small group to know whom you can trust. We have an inner gossip-interest part of our brain and we like to hear about other people. Eleanor Roosevelt supposedly said that great minds discuss ideas, average minds discuss events, and small minds discuss other people. But I heard she wasn’t all that trustworthy. Alice Roosevelt, her husband’s cousin, liked to say, “If you don’t have something good to say, you come sit right here by me.”
I am more like Alice than Eleanor. Unfortunately, bad is about three times more powerful and interesting than good. It is just how Mother Nature has made our brains. Knowing what was bad helped keep us alive in primitive times. So naturally most of our gossip is about people’s shortcomings and failures. In the news business, bad news always leads, and so it is in our social groups. Bad grabs. Good gets ignored.
I propose we outsmart Mother Nature and gossip positively.
Positive gossip will lift your own spirits, it will make other people like you more, and it will eventually get back to the person you gossiped about and inspire her or him. Everyone benefits from positive gossip.
So how do you gossip positively? Try these three steps.
Step 1: Say nice things behind other people’s backs.
Give yourself a challenge to engage in positive gossip. Try it out. Make a point of saying nice things behind the backs of your friends, family and colleagues.
How does it make you feel? When we do something nice, it is one of the most elevating experiences we can have. Saying positive things about others feels good.
Step 2: Shift conversations from negative to positive.
Second, now experiment with shifting conversations from negative to positive. A collleague says, “Did you hear how Bob blew the Jones account? They hated his presentation and now we might not get bonuses because of him.”
What can you do here?
Try positive gossip. You could say, “What a shock. Generally, Bob is quite good at these things. I have seen him do some very good work with clients, so I am confused. I know he did well with the Smith account. There must be more to this story.”
Now you have shifted the tenor of the conversation. You might be able to say, “Let’s stop by Bob’s office and see if there is something we can do to help. After all, we can all benefit from turning this thing around.”
Be a leader, and determine to shift conversations.
Step 3: Wait for good to come back to you.
Third, wait for it to come back to you. When you have been an instigator of positive gossip, you will become the subject of the same kind of positive gossip.
You will be seen in a more positive light, and you will see people becoming more friendly and warm towards you.
In the Asian cultures, there is the principle of Karma, and in the west we call that the Law of the Harvest. As you sow, so shall you reap.
Positive gossip creates an environment where people begin to look for the best in each other.
Additionally, if you gossip about others positively, they will feel more trust in you. Ancient wisdom from all cultures teaches this. Try it out.