The truth about gossip

Filed under: Just For Moms, Big Kids, Just For Dads

I've been thinking about gossip a lot lately. Not about doing it, but about not doing it. I've never been one to start rumors or spread gossip about someone else, but I will admit that I have listened when others have. It doesn't make me feel very good about myself, but more importantly, it sets a bad example for Ellie.

Why do people gossip in the first place? Researchers say that gossiping can strengthen social ties, spread social norms and help put the word out about someone who might be untrustworthy. That may be true, but that seems to put a rather positive spin on what, in my experience, mostly serves to make the gossiper feel somehow better about him or herself.

A new study published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, shows that people put so much stock in gossip that it often trumps their own first-hand knowledge of a person. The actual study involved some complicated game playing among undergraduate students, but the bottom line was that people will believe negative things about a person even when they know better. Why is this?

I thought the kind of vicious mean-spirited gossiping that went on in high school ended there. But apparently not. I've been surprised lately at how many parents gossip about other parents - in front of their children no less. I know this because I have heard things about myself from Ellie, who heard it from friends, who clearly heard it from adults. It saddens to me to see this behavior in those who are old enough to know better. And it breaks my heart to see those who are too young to know better being taught how to do it.

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AdviceMama Says:
Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.