Eleanor Roosevelt once said: “Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people.” But isn’t it true that everyone discusses people? So are we all small minded? What I know to be true is that gossip as a practice is loathsome. And I do not find it interesting to speculate or discuss other people’s lives unless they are sitting in front of me. Because that means that they can respond.
I walk away from these sorts of conversations. I do not scour the Daily Mail for celebrity gossip columns, neither do I trawl the Times for individual political scandal, yet it is all around me. So why there is a need for us to discuss each other and what do we classify as gossip? Anyone who went to a high school or was a teenager knows what gossip is. The truth is that even if you don’t care for it, like me, there has a point at least once in your life when you have passed judgement on a person or the actions that they have taken.
Yet, this notion doesn’t satisfy me. After having a conversation with a few friends, it got me thinking about why we regard judgement to be a derogatory term. He judged me. She made a comment about me. Now you are remembering a comment that he or she made and I can bet it is making you grit your teeth. Why do we always remember the comments that make us feel small or demean us? The conclusion we came to is that judgement is not a bad thing – it is an instrument. A filter that allows you to understand a person and whether you want to make a connection.
With this in mind, it is easy to see why we gossip. We are desperate to make connection, and judgement forms a part of that. You make judgements in your head a thousand times a day with a thousand people you have never met. It is natural. But that does not mean that gossip has to be a bad thing. Purely discussing a person does not necessarily mean that you are trashing them. There is a fine line between praise and gossip – except praise doesn’t spread like wildfire.
So let us try an experiment. Practice good gossip. Give yourself a chance to say nice things about people and notice the good in them. Let judgement be in your corner and allow yourself to praise those that you value. Don’t get sucked in to an endless debate of cynicism and bile – rise about it. You are better than that. And if each of us just chose to spread this secret, one by one, word by word, then what is stopping random acts of kindness being a little less random?
Put simply, gossip hurts because it can be anonymous and snowball. But maybe it is time we stopped seeking adulation for praise and started being grateful for all of the great people making a local difference. Let’s anonymously start making the world a better place.