Did you hear what happened to…

You can’t help but lean in a little closer to find out the rest of the sentence, right?

The lure of being in the loop is just too enticing!

It’s as if human beings have this innate drive to know about other people’s lives.

You only have to look at the celebrity gossip industry worth more than $3 billion as proof.

Why is gossip so ingrained in our behaviour?

Psychologists, evolutionary scientists, and anthropologists all claim that gossip has long been a way for group members to bond with one another and a tool to protect themselves from those who are acting selfishly.

Sounds harmless, right?

It’s not.

Research suggests that gossip can hurt relationships, create a climate of fear and resentment, and increase stress.

It has been shown to affect morale, productivity, and even health.

And it’s rife – especially in the office.

Studies from the University of Amsterdam found that 90 percent of total office conversation qualifies as gossip.

What’s worse, most of the time we don’t even realise we are doing it.

This begs the question, what constitutes gossip?

Cambridge Dictionary defines gossip as “conversation or reports about other people’s private lives that might be unkind, disapproving, or not true”.

Essentially, it’s when we share our assessment of another person in their absence.

And the thing is, it doesn’t necessarily have to be negative for it to be harmful.

Consider a time when a friend gave you their opinion about someone you were about to meet.

Do you recall that you couldn’t help but be shrouded by that judgement when you were finally in that new person’s presence?

Gossip literally robs us of the ability to make our own unbiased, uninhibited assessment of another person (or we would argue, situation too).

Yet since it is so habitual and widespread, it can be difficult to stop.

Trust us, we get it!

Here are our suggestions to help get a grip on our gossip habit:

  1. Start by becoming aware of when you are about to share a piece of information about another person;
  2. Ask yourself what the impact of sharing this piece of information might be on all parties involved and weigh up if it’s truly necessary (sometimes, it might be);
  3. Either share or don’t share the information piece (this time knowingly);
  4. Check in with how you feel afterwards (you’ll know if you made the right decision) and take a key learning for next time.
As always, remember to have self-compassion as breaking long-standing habits takes time and patience. Good luck!