Dr. Peggy Drexel reports in the Huffington Post that a research team from the University of Amsterdam found that 90 percent of total office conversation qualifies as gossip. But while gossip, or talking about other people, is generally assumed to be negative, mean, or destructive, the positive side is often overlooked. Here are some examples of the positive results of sharing information about others:
- Gossip is a currency for building friendships.
- It builds social bonds.
- It builds business networks.
- It builds teams.
The challenge is to separate the negative and positive types of gossip—to stop the negative, which damages trust and relationships, but keep the positive. The participants in my research on women’s relationships in the workplace for my new book New Rules for Women: Revolutionizing the Way Women Work Together
explained that sharing information about others is a friendship rule or expectation. They were confused about when it was alright to share gossip and when not to. To make the difference clear, I thought it would be helpful to have some new language to distinguish between positive and negative talk. For this reason, I coined a new term, “transknitting,” to describe the positive type of information sharing—the transfer of information about other people with the intention of building community or teams or of supporting another person. It’s the intention that distinguishes negative gossip from positive transknitting.
The problem is that talking about others is so common that we often don’t stop to think about whether what we are about to share is gossip or transknitting. When I first made the distinction between the two and started talking about the difference with my friends, our interactions started to change immediately. We would say to each other, “Oh, wait a minute. I was just about to tell you something, but let me think—is it gossip or transknitting?” We began to be able to make conscious choices about what we were doing. We could choose not to participate in negative or hurtful types of talk about other people.
What You Can Do When Others Try to Pull You in to Gossip
Gossip is common—and I mean the negative kind—and the pressure from others to join in can be strong. Here is something you can say if others try to involve you in negative talk about someone else: “I may have missed something about Susan, but I think she means well.” In this way you haven’t offended the gossipers, but you have also kept your relationship clean with the person being talked about, and you have shown yourself to be trustworthy to everyone involved.
What advice do you have about how to handle situations where others are gossiping? What do you say or do to keep from being pulled in? What is your stance about gossip, in general? This is a complicated topic that we can all benefit from reflecting on together.]]>