Researchers Litman and Pezzo (2005) measured individual differences about gossip. Gossip at work and in personal life can be seen as destructive, but also as a way to establish relationships and gain information about others. However, it its important to discern if the information is correct or incorrect.
The study found that there were striking differences about gossip as half the respondents found gossip as “negative talk behind someone’s back”, whereas the other half of the respondents found that gossip “was a fun way to learn about others”. Moreover, people who viewed gossip as a positive social value, were more likely to find negative gossip interesting and want to share it. Overall, people were comfortable with transmitting gossip that was positive.
Gossip can be seen as both socially undesirable and as a way to facilitate socialisation. Therefore it can be considered as a tool to start and maintain friendships. However, it is important to keep in mind that the person who is spreading negative or false information may have a passive-aggressive personality that wants to ‘get back’ at the other person and therefore spread malicious information; it may be used to bring down another person; or deny responsibility for mistakes and lack of productivity. Even if hearing the information will help you build relationships, the important question to ask is “do I want to be part of this situation?”.
In summary, if you are hearing negative information about others, it would be best to double check the information or ignore it all other to maintain your own level of honesty and integrity, rather than continue on a story that may hurt others unnecessarily.
Source: Litman, J. A. & Pezzo, M. V. (2005). Individual differences in attitudes towards gossip. Personality and Individual Differences, 38, 693-980.
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