English: Gossiping Taken from the churchyard. This group of riders chatted for a good ten minutes. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Whenever we find out that something has gone wrong in someone’s life or someone made a big mistake, we all would like to know all the details about this. Also, some of us strive to find out everything we can about coworkers, family members, or friends by becoming extremely observant, or nosy, should I say. I like to refer to these people as “fault sniffers”, commonly coined as gossipers.
My Foster Mother Was a Gossiper
I was raised in a foster home of 8 children. Our mother was very critical about every one of us and our flaws. It was like, if one of us developed a problem, even at 4 years of age, we would more likely have that problem for the rest of our lives. If there was something we were not so good at or if we made some kind of silly mistake, she would blab about it to the rest of the family and to even her relatives. Even if you were just a young kid, say under 10 years old, every little stupid thing you’ve done was treated as if it were a traffic violation or crime that went down on your record. Mom was evil, critical, and would deliberately do things to cause friction and humiliation within the family.
Even as we reached adulthood, our mother would never stop gossiping. She felt that since she raised us, she indefinitely owned us. After we had all left home, she would come and visit us frequently. Whenever she was over, she would ask us lots of questions and poke around through every room in our homes just to see what she could find.
Surely enough, each one of us has made some kind of decision that she disagreed with. For me, I had purchased my first home in 1988 and decided to have a young couple move in with me as tenants. Because they were not so wealthy I allowed them to live there for $150 per month, especially since they agreed to do most of the work around the house. Mother felt that I was being taken advantage of and told me I should charge them $300 per month, which was more than they could afford. She told me how I should handle all my affairs including groceries and utilities. I stood firm on doing what I thought was right. So what did she do? She circulated this news among the entire family.
She was the ultimate news source. I would hear all kinds of interesting news from her as she criticized decisions others had made. For example, if someone purchased a large ticket item she thought was lucrative (like a TV, etc), she would tell everyone about it. One of my sisters sold every piece of furniture they had so her husband could fly down to Texas. She had to tell everybody about that.
Finally, with everyone my mother had met including our spouses and friends, she had to find out as much about them as possible. As for my biological sister’s boyfriend, she would ask me numerous questions about him, where he was from, his lifestyle, etc. It’s like she had to know everything about everyone who crossed her path. She was hoping to discover something extremely unusual or wrong with them. I saw this as a sign of insecurity or inadequacy on her part. By finding fault in others, this may have made her feel better about herself.
Why People Gossip
Why do people gossip? It surely doesn’t take a PhD in psychology to answer this question. Not only must we satisfy our yearning to find about others’ mishaps, but to also justify for our inner feelings of inadequacy. The more we can find out about our everyday atmosphere and the people in it, the greater the sense of power we feel we have. Once we gather a great wealth of information, we can’t wait to share it with everyone in our social circles.
Through gossiping, some people acquire a false sense of self-esteem. By finding out as much as they can about what others are doing and what’s happening in their neighborhoods, communities, and workplaces, some feel they have an edge on everyone else. Once they pass on the pertinent info they discovered, they get a great feeling inside as they believe they won the approval of others. To them, it is an assurance they’ll strengthen their casual relationships and be recognized as a knowledgeable person.
Our Natural Curiosities
We like to find out as much as we can about our neighbors. So we do things like listen for noises going on outside our homes, observe how people keep up their yards, gaze in the windows of homes after dark, or scope out other peoples’ possessions as cars, boats, etc. Once we gather some info, we chat about it with others to see how they feel and hopefully, find out even more.
Like we observe our neighbors, we love to find out what goes on in our community. It all begins with watching other drivers on the road. Some of us love to gaze in the windows of moving vehicles to see what other drivers are doing (like talking on a cell phone) or who is driving. If we see a motorist whom was pulled over by the police, we would like to know the details of what exactly happened. Traffic accidents raise our level of curiosity even more. We have the tendency to slow down and inspect the scene to see what vehicles were involved and what damage has been done. Oh how we wish we could have seen the accident when it happened.
Not only do we observe drivers, but we look for enviromental changes too. Construction sparks our curiosity as well. For example, if we see a building going up, we’d like to know what it will be. As for road construction, we’d like to know why they’re tearing up the road.
No matter where we are or who we’re with, we have a strong desire to find out unusual things about somebody. Now, I mean some extremely weird things! The more unusual these things are, the greater it sparks our curiosity. It may begin with witnessing a street fight, seeing someone knock over a shelf of things in a grocery store, or sighting someone who just got pulled over the by police.
This natural curiosity dates back to our grade school days. If someone has an usual mental of physical disability, we would like to know as much about it as we can. If one or more of our peers failed miserably in school or even flunked a grade, this sparks a great amount of curiosity as well.
It continues on throughout high school and into our working years. Most everyone has a natural curiosity towards their coworkers, the amount they earn, and their lifestyles. Most of all, workers poke their noses towards their managers and everyone else above them. They’re curious to know as much about the upper management levels of their employer and how their company is doing. These workers will poke their noses everywhere they can and find out as much as they can through observation.
We would like to know how well others’ perform their jobs, their work habits, and their lifestyles. So what do we do? We observe the behavior of others and listen hard to the things they say. Also, there are some people that attract our attention more than others. Maybe it’s because we really like (or dislike) their appearance, we hear things from or about them that excite us, or maybe it’s just a sense of personal chemistry. If there’s someone that you’re extremely curious about, chances are you’ll find out things about them without poking your nose at them.
Although they would like to be on one of the top rungs of the ladder, getting there often requires a lot more skill and expertise than they believe they have. Since this is true, instead of envying those above them, these coworkers look for ways to cut their superiors down, just to make themselves feel better. This is why employees group together and go out to lunch or congregate after work, someplace off the employer’s premises. Many will hit a bar after work just to have a few drinks as they are more inclined to share what is on their minds.
It all boils down to one thing: coworkers wish they could have as much authority and earn as much money as their superiors. For those coworkers who feel they’re stuck in a hopeless rut, they’ll find any way possible to demean those above them. Through gossiping, workers seek social approval from their friends.
Covering Up for Our Inadequacies
Everyone has an inadequacy of some kind. Whether we want to admit it or not, there have been some things we have done or some things that happened to us that we are not too proud of.
Such examples are having a troubled childhood, getting a DWI, being fired, becoming a victim or rape or robbery, finding out our significant other is cheating on us, losing money on a scam, and the list goes on and on. Maybe it was a big mistake we made resulting in a large loss or great damage, such as making a bad investment. Negligent acts that were our fault or embarrassing mishaps betray us as well.
Likewise, it may be a personal weakness, a fault or flaw, or physical defect we have that causes us to feel insecurity. It may be an attention deficit, behavioral disorder, depression, unmanageable anger, recklessness, or habitual negligence. Possibly, one is unhappy about their appearance making them insecure. One may feel inadequate become she doesn’t have many friends or has nothing to say during a social gathering. Maybe, there was a situation where one was treated unfavorably because of a flaw he has.
How do we cope with our imperfections or misfortunes? We like to find out about others who have experienced the same things or possess the same flaws we have. Hearing about mistakes others have made makes us feel better. This is because we realize we’re not the only one who has had this happen to.
A great number of people are humble. Whatever happened to them, whether it was their fault or not, they are willing to share their stories. Even if it is a quirk they have or something stupid they did, or an incorrect conclusion about something, they’ll openly talk about it. For them, it is a great way to get what is bothering them off their chest. Expressing these things also arouses the interest of those they speak to.
However, there are times when we never find out what others have experienced. This is where gossiping comes in. Gossipers have the natural tendency to phish for information by asking people questions or eavesdropping in on them. In some instances, people discover flaws of others without even trying. For instance, one may witness a celebrity or an authority figure doing something really stupid. Once they capture some sensitive facts, they can’t wait to share them with their friends. Not only is this a feeling of gainfulness, it is a search for approval from them. Hence, gossiping serves as a way to gain a social boost.
What is a rumor? As defined in the Webster dictionary, rumor has more than one meaning:
- Talk or opinion that is disseminated to others with no discernible source.
- A statement or report made without a known authority to verify its truth.
Why do people start rumors? I have read many stories about classmates or coworkers spreading rumors throughout the school or workplace about someone, especially untrue stories. All these stories boil down to one thing: jealousy.
The main reason rumors are started is to raise some kind of excitement. Maybe it’s because they can’t find something else better to do. Most of them would like to see something in particular happen, usually something bad or negatively arousing (such as a business going under or somebody getting fired, etc) and they’ll try to get others stirred up at the same time. They will in turn make up some type of story stating that it’s really happening. At the same time, they love to observe peoples’ reactions to their story.
Let’s pick two fictitious characters: Jill and Sue. Jill, who is struggling in algebra, realizes that Sue is a math whiz. Jill then becomes envious of Sue and seeks out a way to cut Sue down. As a result, Jill might make up a story about how Sue cheats on a math test in order to get a passing grade. By spreading a rumor about Sue, Jill hopes she will boost herself image and raise herself into the social spotlight.
Rumors might be used to sabotage the goals of others. Once someone finds out that another is attempting to make a positive change, like seeking a promotion or marrying a certain person, this person may pass a rumor against the goal seeker(s). More likely, the one who starts the rumor wishes he could do the same thing, but has no prospects. Out of jealousy, he may attempt to derail the other person’s goals.