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28th Mar 2024

Is it bad to love gossiping?

Anna Martin


I love gossiping. There I said it.

Spill the beans, give me the tea, I want to know everything (within reason of course).

Historically, women who gossiped were considered to be untrustworthy or shamed in their respective communities. Even the word ‘gossip’ has a complex history.

If you dive into one of the thousands of articles on the internet, they go to great lengths to break down the etymology of the word, which came from godsibb: god and sib (relative) or godparent; those closest to you with whom you would share your secrets.

Over time it didn’t just have to be a relative that you dished the news with, as the word evolved to include midwives, companions in childbirth and close female friends.

The sexist perception of gossip only began in the 16th century when the aforementioned women congregating to talk began to be seen as a threat to patriarchal structures.

This is probably because gossip encouraged women to come out of their homes, exchange information, building their own communities and friendships away from their supposed duties.

It was demonised so much that women were condemned for gathering and speaking in groups.

Credit: Canva

There is evidence of some women being forced to wear a metal contraption called the ‘scold’s bridle,’ a muzzle that clamped their jaws shut, physically preventing them from speaking.

If we move away from this out dated perception of what gossiping is and actually look at if from a scientific point of view, is it actually as bad as people make it out to be?

The first thing you need to do is to flip your idea of what spilling the tea really means historicially.

In order to survive and pass along your genes it has pretty much always been necessary to know about the lives of those around you: who had powerful friends, who was sleeping with whom, who had limited resources, and who might stab you in the back when times got tough.

Being in the know helped people to get ahead and move up the social ladder. Those who weren’t interested were automatically at a disadvantage according to Frank T. McAndrew, Ph.D., the Cornelia H. Dudley Professor of Psychology at Knox College in Galesburg.

“They were not good at attracting and keeping mates, or maintaining alliances. The ones who weren’t interested in the goings on of other people sort of got weeded out,” he said in conversation with NBC.

What makes gossip good or bad according to Frank, is how we actually use the information we learn.

For example if you’ve connected with a new friend or coworker after a gossip session, you’re not alone and it doesn’t make you a bad person.

Credit: Canva

“Sharing information creates a sense of camaraderie as you bond over topics that are sensitive or captivating,” says Elizabeth Fedrick, a licensed professional counselor and professor of psychology at Grand Canyon University in Phoenix. 

It can be a way to test the waters – and gain helpful insights. Discussing a friend who quit her job before having another lined up may prompt your conversation partners to share their own concerns about finances or making rash decisions.

You could leave the conversation feeling validated about your own opinion and even more understanding of the perspectives of others.

While bad gossip is typically when your words can be hurtful and damaging to relationships.

For example, after a frustrating conversation with a friend, you may mention to your mutual acquaintance that this person seemed rude.

Even if this comment was the reflection of your less-than-ideal chat, rather than an objective reflection, the person you spoke to may continue to hold judgment on your friend.

So basically keep gossiping but choose your words wisely!