By Steve Moran
Everyone gossips. Yes even you!
I have always thought of gossip as this near-universal bad thing that pretty much everyone does from time to time. And then I came across the term Prosocial Gossip on a webcast. Who knew? There is actually a term for good gossip.
And yes there is such a thing as good gossip.
It turns out that good gossip has been around for nearly as long as the human race existed.
Gossip is talking about someone else in a negative way. Good gossip is not just saying nice things about someone else. That is simply conversation of the ordinary kind.
I Kind of Have No Idea What You Are Talking About
Way before there was something called the police, there were still people who did bad things to other people. They stole, they took advantage, and they even did physical harm. If you were big enough, strong enough, or smart enough, you stood a chance of protecting yourself from these predators.
If you weren’t . . .
You relied on your friends to warn you to stay away from bad people, to tell you who it was safe to be friends with, and who you should avoid at all costs. In some sense, you might argue that websites like Yelp and Google Reviews are a form of prosocial gossip.
Why It Resonates
Last Thanksgiving, I received an over-the-top pitch from a guy through LinkedIn. I replied, suggesting that I was unimpressed and that it actually made him and his organization look bad. His response back was aggressive, obscene, and even threatening.
I did talk about it and debated naming the person I was interacting with. But I really wanted to publish his name in order to warn other people.
And, if I am honest, the more ugly part of me wanted to use the power of my influence to pay him back. In the end, I never did name him. But I still wonder if I should have named names.
This is dangerous territory of course. Because, right now, there are radical elements in many different political tribes who are eager to do great damage to those in other tribes, just because they disagree. That is not prosocial gossip, it is terrorism.
Prosocial gossip is a righteous endeavor and should only be used when there is a significant moral/characterological problem with an individual or even a company. When there is a high potential for damage to others.
What do you think?