Author Topic: When does chatting cross the line and become gossip?  (Read 4680 times)

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jpcher

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Re: When does chatting cross the line and become gossip?
« Reply #15 on: December 21, 2012, 03:21:29 PM »
You know, I almost posted something similar to this just the other day.

My MIL is famous for saying "You didn't hear it from me" or "Please don't tell anyone that I told you" or "This probably shouldn't get around."

When my simple question is "How is So-n-So doing?" am I asking for gossip? No. I'm asking for an update on people that I don't talk to unless we're at a rare family get-together.

I have a specific for-instance, but don't want to derail this thread . . .

. . . Is asking for news the same as dishing for gossip?





Sharnita

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Re: When does chatting cross the line and become gossip?
« Reply #16 on: December 21, 2012, 03:32:13 PM »
I think some of that comes from people know you and having experience with the type of person you are.  The better they know you the more likely they are to know whether that is code for asking for gossip or not. 

I also think that identifying what is gossip can be a little tricky.  Some is obvious, some is not. One person might be fine with people finding out that they have X medical condition.  Some might even want word spread so they can have prayer/moral support/whatever.  Others might not want anyone to know, not even close family. Pregnancy, jobds, divorce are other areas that might be tricky.

Kendo_Bunny

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Re: When does chatting cross the line and become gossip?
« Reply #17 on: December 21, 2012, 03:38:17 PM »

. . . Is asking for news the same as dishing for gossip?

I don't think so. I have some dear friends I don't get to see very often, who don't like talking on the phone much. When I see a member of that group, "I haven't seen you in so long! How is Lily doing? I haven't heard from her. How's the job?" seems rather expected.

Or, in the case of a dear friend who has been going through some bad times, "How are they doing? Is X bad thing still bad, or are things doing better?"

I don't think it's at all rude to want to know what people who are important to you are up to. I think that's very different from trying to pry into what they may have been trying to keep secret or what they don't want people to know.

I didn't consider it gossip when my dearest friend told me that a former dear childhood companion was divorcing the husband that we all hated, who had told her she could choose her friends or him, and former friend now wanted to be friends again. That's news. Going into all the gruesome details about the marriage and the divorce would have been gossip. My dearest friend told the former friend that I had broken up with my ex-boyfriend, who my former friend did not like. That's news. She did not tell her that my ex had turned out to be an emotionally abusive cheating louse. That would have been gossip.

oceanus

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Re: When does chatting cross the line and become gossip?
« Reply #18 on: December 21, 2012, 03:38:59 PM »
Agree that your husband telling you about the incident with the other couple is not gossip, you telling others is definitely gossip.

I try to never get into (or listen to) discussions about why a couple broke up.  Itís speculative, and not my business.  If the third party wants to know details, she can ask the couple directly.

Lynn2000

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Re: When does chatting cross the line and become gossip?
« Reply #19 on: December 21, 2012, 05:24:30 PM »
OP, great thread. I've actually been thinking about something similar lately, for whatever reason. My boss likes to gossip and tell me stuff about people at work that I don't even really know... I don't like it much, especially when she interrupts me doing actual work, but she seems to find it valuable to "get things off her chest." When it's me and my friends, I kind of go by instinct, which I know isn't very helpful for anyone else--I start out telling news about people we both know, and if we go on for too long and take a certain "tone," I start to feel uncomfortable and like we're getting into (bad) gossip, so I stop.

I think a certain amount of commiserating about a mutual, irritating acquaintance can be helpful, though. Once a few years ago I had a newish co-worker who was rather annoying--he was an arrogant know-it-all, basically, though underlying that a decent guy. I remember that several of us--not him--were in a car going somewhere, and someone just said, "You know, I find Mike a little annoying sometimes," and the whole car just sort of sighed with collective relief as we all started talking about the ways he'd irritated us. We'd all been suffering in silence, feeling like maybe it was only us and not really him. I'm sure some of our subsequent conversations about him did venture into (bad) gossip, but others were really helpful in blowing off steam and giving each other new ideas for how to deal with him.

Regarding celebrity gossip... Although I don't believe they ought to be subjected to paparazzi and gossip just because they've chosen a public profession, unfortunately you pretty much have to expect it these days. I think the People magazine-level "human interest" stuff is more or less fine--stuff that's positive like romance and babies or even overcoming adversity. I don't like the catty websites that exist solely to mock and belittle celebrities, call them names, make up nasty stuff based on the merest hints, etc.. And even on the more respectable (IMO) sites, when I start to read the comments I often start to feel icky, because you see these people who just want to find flaws with everyone--if they're single that means they're in the closet, if they're dating they must be cheating, if they've lost weight it must be due to drugs, if they don't go out much it's because their SO is isolating them. I guess that's the schadenfreude part, taking too much interest and delight in other people's misery, to the point of imagining misery for them if none can be proven.
~Lynn2000

oceanus

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Re: When does chatting cross the line and become gossip?
« Reply #20 on: December 21, 2012, 05:37:13 PM »
Quote
. Is asking for news the same as dishing for gossip?

Nah.

News = Is X recovering from his knee surgery?  The Smiths bought a new house - great!  John & Mary's daughter found out she got accepted at XYZ University!  Carol got a new haircut and new look - wait till you see it, quite attractive.

Gossip = Jim's wife found out he's having an affair with his co-worker.  Paul is gaining a lot of weight but don't mention it.  The Wilson's son got arrested for selling drugs.  I'm glad Bob got a promotion; they're on the brink of bankruptcy.

Editeer

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Re: When does chatting cross the line and become gossip?
« Reply #21 on: December 21, 2012, 05:44:24 PM »
"Certainly no pastime such diversion lends
As talking friends over analytically with friends."

--Ogden Nash, "Hush, Here They Come"

Ceallach

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Re: When does chatting cross the line and become gossip?
« Reply #22 on: December 21, 2012, 07:10:32 PM »
Personally I believe that gossip is an essential part of human communication.  It maintains community closeness, facilitates social bonding, and has been a key ingredient in civilizations for hundreds of years.   Without gossip our lives become increasingly distant. 

The key is to ensure your idle chitchat about others is not malicious, untrue, or harmful in any way.    If you're sharing information with the intent of creating drama, that's wrong.   If you're sharing details that you know the person in question would want kept confidential, that's wrong.   If you're passing along unverified information or potentially harmful information that might not be true, that's wrong.    It's about making smart decisions as to what is appropriate and what isn't.  A good rule of thumb is to always assess your own motivation in sharing something (e.g. are you trying to damage somebody's reputation? Cause trouble?) and also consider if sharing the information could cause harm, discomfort or trouble for those involved.   If it's already commonly known information and is not slanderous, then there's generally no harm in sharing it.
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blarg314

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Re: When does chatting cross the line and become gossip?
« Reply #23 on: December 21, 2012, 09:10:27 PM »

I would say that in the examples you gave, telling your husband is totally normal, but going out and telling all your friends is crossing the line into malicious gossip. A warning to a friend who was planning on inviting the couple to a pub night, however, might be warranted.

In the second case, telling your friend about the breakup and its circumstances falls under the category of socially useful gossip, if the circumstances are generally known. If the knowledge the the BF cheated had been told to you in confidence it would be malicious gossip.  Continuing into a discussion about how the mutual friend had always been cold and distant towards her boyfriend so you understand why he cheated on her, or speculating about the nature of the sexual relationship with the new girl would be over the line.

I agree with PPs that gossip isn't necessarily bad. Used appropriately, it helps disseminate useful information through a community. Even with negative information, this can be useful - it saves the person experiencing the problem from having to tell every single person they know, personally, their bad news, and keeps the rest of the community from accidentally putting their foot in their mouth.

With people who are exhibiting bad behaviour, it can ensure that their bad behaviour is known about in a community, to warn others (that couple can't handle their alcohol, he takes advantage of naive young women, she's perfectly sweet until you cross her, and then she'll destroy you).

For someone who has physically left a social group, it can help keep them socially and mentally connected - if everyone else in the group knows X and they don't because they aren't physically there, that pushes them further out of the group.

The exact line between useful/neutral gossip and depends a lot on circumstances. Is the information true or speculation?  Was it told to you in confidence?  How much enjoyment are you getting from spreading it? Are you doing it to sabotage or hurt someone you dislike? Are you running around telling everyone you know, or telling it when and if it becomes inappropriate? Is it being used to punish someone or protect someone? Are you telling people who will use it against the subject?

magician5

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Re: When does chatting cross the line and become gossip?
« Reply #24 on: December 21, 2012, 10:01:00 PM »
If you have to ask ... it's gossip. As Eleanor Roosevelt said, "Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people."

There is no 'way to peace.' Peace is the way.

LA lady

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Re: When does chatting cross the line and become gossip?
« Reply #25 on: December 21, 2012, 10:44:32 PM »
I would agree with the concept of repeating what you believe the other person would not want repeated, or that you would be embarrassed for them to overhear your repeating, but I would add one exception to that.

If you are legitimately warning someone that has a genuine need to know, that is not gossip.  It is legitimate information.  E.g.  My mother warned one friend to think twice about lending a large amount of cash (in the thousands) to another friend who had a past pattern of not repaying debts.  First friend went ahead and made the loan, not only without collateral but without even a note.  She died, years later, without receiving the first payment.   Debtor even had the nerve to tell Lender not to bother her about it anymore.  My mother would have been remiss not to give the warning, for all the good it did.

Annoyed in America

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Re: When does chatting cross the line and become gossip?
« Reply #26 on: December 22, 2012, 12:48:03 AM »
Sami Hami,
I think you are doing great.  I too found as I aged that I was becoming less and less a person I wanted to be.  Part of it is hormonal.  Happens to most of us as we pass into peri-menopause.  At the time I was going into this period of my life I lost my best friend.  She was a victim of medical error and died at the age of 40.  Her death was so similar to my mother's death when I was a child that it sent me into a tailspin of depression.  Took me nine years to come out of it, thanks in part to the hormonal changes I was going through.  My doctor was no help.  Thank goodness my DH stood by me.  Coming out on the other side I can now look back and see it more objectively.  Also during this time I worked with a truly evil person who took joy in making people miserable.  We all know people like this.  I had to grin and bear it for a long time, but when the time came that I was able to write her out of my life it made a huge difference.   I began to be happy again.  When you are able to find joy in your own life you are less likely to find time to gossip about other's misfortune.  The gossip will cease to interest you.  Keep up the faith. Merry Christmas!  :D

Mikayla

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Re: When does chatting cross the line and become gossip?
« Reply #27 on: December 22, 2012, 02:54:02 PM »
This is a great thread, SamiHami.

I love some of the responses on how to look at it, especially the one about whether you'd say it in front of that person.  I instantly thought of the definition of cheating -- if you wouldn't do it in front of your partner, then yes you are cheating.

I do think the spouse or partner privilege exists and things can be said that wouldn't be ok elsewhere.  They may not "improve the silence" (loved that one!) but it's human nature to want to react when something major - good or bad - happens to someone you both know.  If there's an understanding it won't go further, or hurt the person involved in any way, I just can't call it gossip when it's your spouse.  You're sharing the world together, warts and all.

bopper

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Re: When does chatting cross the line and become gossip?
« Reply #28 on: December 22, 2012, 04:25:11 PM »
Another thing to consider is "Will it affect the person who you want to tell the information?"

Are they involved?

So it would not help the friend x to know that friend A & B got banned from the bar. It does not involve them. Except perhaps if they wanted to meet the whole gang at the bar.   But if someone had a baby, that would be okay as it will not make the other people look bad.

guihong

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Re: When does chatting cross the line and become gossip?
« Reply #29 on: December 22, 2012, 05:55:03 PM »
OP, great thread. I've actually been thinking about something similar lately, for whatever reason. My boss likes to gossip and tell me stuff about people at work that I don't even really know... I don't like it much, especially when she interrupts me doing actual work, but she seems to find it valuable to "get things off her chest." When it's me and my friends, I kind of go by instinct, which I know isn't very helpful for anyone else--I start out telling news about people we both know, and if we go on for too long and take a certain "tone," I start to feel uncomfortable and like we're getting into (bad) gossip, so I stop.

I think a certain amount of commiserating about a mutual, irritating acquaintance can be helpful, though. Once a few years ago I had a newish co-worker who was rather annoying--he was an arrogant know-it-all, basically, though underlying that a decent guy. I remember that several of us--not him--were in a car going somewhere, and someone just said, "You know, I find Mike a little annoying sometimes," and the whole car just sort of sighed with collective relief as we all started talking about the ways he'd irritated us. We'd all been suffering in silence, feeling like maybe it was only us and not really him. I'm sure some of our subsequent conversations about him did venture into (bad) gossip, but others were really helpful in blowing off steam and giving each other new ideas for how to deal with him.

Regarding celebrity gossip... Although I don't believe they ought to be subjected to paparazzi and gossip just because they've chosen a public profession, unfortunately you pretty much have to expect it these days. I think the People magazine-level "human interest" stuff is more or less fine--stuff that's positive like romance and babies or even overcoming adversity. I don't like the catty websites that exist solely to mock and belittle celebrities, call them names, make up nasty stuff based on the merest hints, etc.. And even on the more respectable (IMO) sites, when I start to read the comments I often start to feel icky, because you see these people who just want to find flaws with everyone--if they're single that means they're in the closet, if they're dating they must be cheating, if they've lost weight it must be due to drugs, if they don't go out much it's because their SO is isolating them. I guess that's the schadenfreude part, taking too much interest and delight in other people's misery, to the point of imagining misery for them if none can be proven.

If you are me, then saying even this is playing with fire.  Sure enough, someone in the car will turn out to be Mike's cousin or best friend  :-X.   

My own rule: I don't pass judgement or bring up troublesome personality quirks (this doesn't count, as we're anonymous ;))).  News is different.