A wee bit of history from ‘Encyclopedia Saskia’: ‘gossip’ was originally used in the context of women giving birth (who would’ve thought!). Back in the day giving birth was very much a ladies only (social) event, where the birthing lady’s relatives and neighbours would gather. First of all, how on earth was giving birth a social event!? I can just see it now, Aunty Sally and the neighbour from number 31 are chatting about how scandalous it is that Rutherford and Elizabeth are now together since Rutherford used to court Isadora, the daughter of the blacksmith. Meanwhile poor wee Edna is making horrendous screaming noises from the other room while pushing a baby the size of a watermelon out of her…. So of course, as with most women-only social gatherings these days, there was much chattering, which led to the term ‘gossiping’ to be introduced, meaning “to talk of others”.
However, if you look at the Oxford dictionary definition you’ll find that the term ‘gossip’ has been expanded to mean “casual or unconstrained conversation or reports about other people, typically involving details which are not confirmed as true.” Unsurprisingly, gossip still seems to be more of an issue for women than men, however there is no denying that the issue of gossip is prevalent amongst both sexes.
According to research people who gossip most often have higher levels of anxiety, aren’t popular because people don't trust them, and consequently have a bad reputation. Not only does gossiping bring down the person being talked about, it also makes the gossiper look bad too.
As Mumsdollar sings, “sticks and stones will break my bones and names will always hurt me.” There is power in words, they have the ability to build up people, or tear them down. I’m guilty of using the excuse that I’m ‘saying things in love’, or I have ‘good intentions’, but the reality is, if you wouldn’t say it to that person's face, then don't say it at all.
I remember this one time my friends and I were talking negatively about someone else, when one person in the group said “Let’s stop saying things we don’t like about ____ and each go round and say something we like about them”. We didn’t even realise how awful we sounded while we were saying nasty things about this person! It wasn’t until someone actually pointed it out that we actually stopped and thought about the things we were saying and how it would make the person feel.
So let’s use our words to build people up rather than tear them down. Let’s build confidence in our friends and colleagues, encouraging them, speaking into their lives, bringing out the positives rather than the negatives. There’s no way that I would want my friends talking nastily behind my back, I’d rather hear it from them if they had an issue or problem. So let’s be sure to be transparent in our friendships, to think about what we are saying and whether our conversations would be altered if the person being talked about were actually in the room. You’ll be amazed at how much of a difference it will actually make!