Toxic Tea - How Gossiping Hurts You

We all know gossip isn’t kind. We get that it hurts the people we’re talking about, even if they never find out about it. What you might not realize is how much it hurts you, too.

I don’t think of myself as very gossipy, but I talk about others more than I should. (Admitting you have a problem is the first step, right?)

Gossiping can be tough to avoid. Sometimes you need to discuss a disagreement you have with a coworker. It can be difficult to talk about the problem without talking negatively about the person.

While I want to cut gossiping out of my life for moral reasons, I also have a selfish reason to quit.

They’re rubber; you’re glue

Gossiping hurts you socially more than you realize.

Spontaneous trait transference is a psychological phenomenon where people associate you with the traits you describe in others.

As Gretchen Rubin explains:

If I tell Jean that Pat is arrogant, unconsciously, Jean associates that quality with me. On the other hand, if I say Pat is brilliant or hilarious, I’m linked to those qualities.

What I say about others sticks to me, so I should say only positive things about others. This transference even happens when talking to someone who knows me well.

Gossip’s utility

Gossip originated as a survival skill that helped communities protect one another and keep people in check. If you stole from your neighbor, you knew the community would hear about it.

The vast majority of gossip isn’t essential, life-saving gossip. It’s typically small and petty, and that’s the kind of gossip we should all cut out of our lives.

Help me quit

This article is my way of announcing that I want to quit gossiping. I don’t want to talk negatively about others but focus on the positive.

If you’re a friend and I start gossiping to you about someone else, please hold me accountable. It can be something like:

  • “Don’t forget about spontaneous trait transference!"
  • "Can we instead find something positive we like about this person?"
  • "I hear you, but I think we might be dipping into gossip now.”

While this is my responsibility, not yours, I’d still appreciate the assistance.

Read more about spontaneous trait transference: