Thursday, August 20, 2009 Guest Post - Is Gossip Good?!?

[Editor's Note: I always like adding new voices to the Guest List, and one such blogger would be Danielle Bean, who runs the blog It's Nice To Be Nice. The blog sorta what the name implies, with the simple goal to "remind people of the importance of sharing, connecting, and treating others well." Given all the salt I shake around here, as you might imagine, it's a nice change of pace. As usual, show our guest some love you-know-where.]

While having lunch today at a restaurant down the street, I overheard a couple of ladies talking. They covered a number of topics during my hour long lunch that included tales of infidelity, another colleagues need to lose weight, and the discussion of the receptionist's recently incarcerated beau.

While it was my intention to get away and have some quiet time reading, I listened intently, interested in these strangers lives and tales. I'm not proud of this at all. There's a part of me that felt like an intruder, like a snoop, but the writer and researcher in me, stayed, listened, and documented.

Here's an excerpt:

Lady A:Is she going to wait on him?

Lady B:I know I wouldn't. She can just get somebody else. He's not coming home for a minute anyway.

Lady A:She'd be a fool to wait if you ask's not like they're married.

Lady B:And even if they were (pause) I wouldn't wait.

Lady A: She can write him, but I certainly wouldn't be waiting......he's probably not

I chuckled inside. These women must have been at least fifty! Didn't they have something better to do with their time?

Possibly not? According to recent research gossiping is quite beneficial and a productive use of time.
Research shows gossiping boosts levels of progesterone, a hormone which reduces anxiety and stress. It also plays an important part in social bonding, making women happier.

Researchers at the University of Michigan put 160 female students in pairs, and half were given questions to ask each other designed to bring them closer together. These included 'Given the choice of anyone in the world, who would you want as a dinner guest?' and 'What has been your greatest accomplishment?' The remaining pairs were asked to proof-read a research paper on botany.

After 20 minutes, the students who got to know each other through 'chatty' questions saw progesterone levels stay the same or increase. But in the other group, progesterone declined.

Professor Stephanie Brown, who led the research, which was published in the journal Hormones and Behaviour, said: 'Many of the hormones involved in bonding and helping behavior lead to reductions in stress and anxiety. 'Higher levels of progesterone may be part of the underlying basis of these effects. She added: 'It's important to find the links between biological mechanisms and human social behavior.

'These links help us understand why people in close relationships are happier, healthier and live longer than those who are socially isolated.'vProgesterone is produced in the ovaries, and prepares the womb for pregnancy, fights infection and stops the over-production of estrogen that could raise the risk of cancer.
Now, I'm not sure if a discussion over who you'd invite as a dinner guest qualifies as gossip. Yes, it did give the women an opportunity to bond and discuss their preferences, who they admired, which might include parents, other family, heroes, or celebrities, but such a discussion couldn't be considered gossip; it's all first hand information.

Gossip occurs when you maliciously share the truth or rumors about another in an effort to cause excitement, make yourself the center of attention because you have all the juicy details, or feel better about yourself.

My general rule is, if the person I'm talking about would be upset with my speech, it's probably gossip. This isn't saying that I follow this rule all the time....but I am getting better....not just when it comes to sharing, but listening as well.

Not too long ago, someone approached me, beginning with, "Danielle, you know I probably shouldn't tell you this, but..." And I immediately responded with, "So, don't," and the person stopped and looked at me in amazement. I wasn't rude, but I think they could tell from my tone that I felt it wasnt' the right thing to do. I would be lying if I wasn't proud of myself. I was and to tell the truth, it felt really good.

I just didn't want to hear it. Not because I wasn't interested, I was, but mostly because I've got my own stuff to be concerned about. And the older I get, I realize that 24 hrs isn't enough time to do all that I want to do each day, so why waste them talking about someone else.....

In addition, even when I've participated in gossip, I've always seen it as an attention seeking move. What I was saying was, "Hey, look at me, I know something you don't" or "I'm so much better than she is." When in reality I was not. We all have problems, difficulties, and character flaws to overcome....that's just life. Things happen.

But when they do, I have a choice in my response to another.

I could help, talk about it, pray (if you believe in the power of prayer), or just keep my mouth shut.

And it's up to me to determine what that will be...but I'm not buying this joke of a report. When I want to relieve stress there are many other options on the table. How about exercise, tea, sex, sleep, a full body massage...

Question: Can you name any more? How do you relieve stress? Do you gossip? Is there such a thing as good gossip?

It's Nice To Be Nice [Blog]

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