Why Do We Gossip?

We all find ourselves being drawn to talk about other people, sometimes in a positive way but often not. There are key reasons we lean into talking about others; is it good or bad? Useful or hurtful? Join JJ and Melissa for the conversation.

September 14, 2021
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Melissa Albers  0:00  
Hey everyone, you are listening to the self awareness Journey podcast. This little banter is about a car ride long and features your hosts, JJ Parker. And Melissa Albers. JJ owns a tech company. And Melissa has been a coach working with influencers for the last 18 years.

JJ Parker  0:19  
You know, I love to and Melissa, what? Talking about other people? Oh, let's do that. Let me get my list out. People, we can talk about it. It's funny

Melissa Albers  0:32  
for you.

JJ Parker  0:34  
So, um, so the past couple of weeks. In, in my like, in my CEO roundtable, we've been a couple of guys have some different problems that they're trying to solve. Right? Yeah, we've been breaking out into these, like, kind of like groups together to help solve these problems, right? Yeah. Yep. Which is fine. I like I like solving problems. And yeah, you know, they're not clear, easy problems to solve. So I really like to get those like juicy details. But what's funny about it is, like, this circle of people just start talking about, you know, about the problem about the people and it just becomes this crazy spider web of Yeah, like, literally gossip, to the point where, like, you know, like, you and I are in running kind of similar circles, and even like my CF O's running in similar circles, and it's just like, everyone's talking to everyone else. Yeah, it's like high school Holy crap. Like. It's, and you know, and it's all, you know, for, for the purposes of like, our group, it's all in support, right? It's just trying to, because, yeah, you know, again, that the solutions are complicated. So it takes quite a bit of like, brainpower and ideas and conversations to kind of like, yeah, maybe come up with like, some interesting ways to move forward on it. But I was just amazed to how, like you said, it was, it felt like high school, like gossiping all over. And here we are all 40 5060 Something, business professionals, and we're like, chatting behind the lockers, do between classes, talking if someone walks

Melissa Albers  2:35  
by. That's human nature, though. It is human nature that like everybody loves to talk about other people. They do. Everybody loves to do that.

JJ Parker  2:49  
Yeah, it's like, it's an interesting way that even information spreads. Right? Like, even, like, I never hear any family news, like firsthand. It's always like, you know, from my aunt, to my mom, to my wife to me, right.

Melissa Albers  3:10  
Oh my gosh, that's the same. I never even thought about that. That's so true. Yeah. It's like the old fashioned telephone game, right? I stand in a circle. You know, that game? Did you ever play that when you're little? You stand in a circle of people. And you you come what the first person comes up with a statement? Oh, yeah. And then they whisper it to the person next to him. And then that person has to whisper it to the next person. And it goes around the circle to see if it's the exact same state to be getting watched at the Mecca this

JJ Parker  3:41  
was something about talking about other people makes makes us feel good. Yes. Yeah. Right. Like, I mean, and in a weird way, like sometimes even like, sort of the juicy or the gossip, the better enter feels, it's like, yeah, so like, what is that? That's like, yeah, you've got some secret information. You really feel good that you're on the insider track. I mean, it's got it. Like, what it's gotta be something about relationships and, and knowing something makes you feel closer. Yeah,

Melissa Albers  4:19  
I don't know. So well, I don't know. Like, I think it's probably there's probably a number of reasons. Like I think one of the reasons is, is because it makes you feel part of something else. You know, like we always talk about we're we're pack animals, you know, human beings are pack animals and at the very base, carnal levels.

JJ Parker  4:39  
Oh, yeah. So like, like if I know, a juicy nugget of information about you that no one else knows.

Melissa Albers  4:47  
Yes. Which I'm sure you do.

JJ Parker  4:50  
And then I'm able to tell somebody else. That piece of information that only I know. Yeah, right. As a kind of signals that I know Melissa better than you normally Yes, exactly

Melissa Albers  5:04  
right. Precisely. Yeah.

JJ Parker  5:06  
So the reason why we would share that is because we're sort of like a little bit bragging or signaling that like, Hey, I'm closer to this person than you are because I know a piece of information that you don't

Melissa Albers  5:18  
write. It's a pecking order almost.

JJ Parker  5:21  
Oh, yeah. That's a good way to phrase it.

Melissa Albers  5:23  
Yeah. Which is weird, isn't it? When you think about it, it's so innate, to think about that to be that it's so innate for us to be that way. You know, it's so funny. Like, as we're talking about this, I was in Target yesterday. And there were three young ladies talking together. And they were all the energy of that gossip was through the roof. They were in the makeup section. Yeah. I was looking for fingernail polish OPI in case anyone wondered? Coca Cola red. But anyway, side note. So they were sitting in this little cluster, and they were, and the one girl said to the others. Well, she just doesn't want her boyfriend to know that because she has been talking to, and then she inserted another guy's name can't remember it was no. But anyhow, the funny thing is, is that they were so there was so much energy in that little hen clutch, right? The minute I walked by, they all stopped talking. Why? And the girl who had just made that, you know, pronouncement, looked at me and then look down to the floor. She felt guilty.

JJ Parker  6:32  
Yeah, it was worse. It was so funny. It was like getting called out on their gossip.

Melissa Albers  6:39  
But all I did was walk by she, she already knew she was in full cry. She knew.

JJ Parker  6:46  
She knew. Just like a random person at the target.

Melissa Albers  6:50  
Just write in for my darn fingernail polish. Me alone. Keep me out of this all the way. That sounds kind of good. What's going on?

JJ Parker  7:00  
Can I join in? That's

Melissa Albers  7:02  
cool. But I started to laugh because I thought, Oh, my goodness, these girls. I mean, that's what I did. I started reflecting what that was like, you know that energy? Because in high school, it is the exact same thing. Only the energy is more immature and higher. There's just a lot more of it. Right? This is a whole lot more of it going around.

JJ Parker  7:29  
Right, so it kind of starts early like that, doesn't it? Oh,

Melissa Albers  7:32  
yes. Right. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. So

JJ Parker  7:35  
like, so that you talk about like energy, right? I mean, I think we can all recognize that that energy, right? And we get sucked into it. Like, yes, it about it. Just Yes. Everybody in?

Melissa Albers  7:50  
No. Okay, at work at work. So two people can be talking. And they might be talking about something completely unrelated. You might walk by and think they're talking about me. No, they are. Right. So we're constantly looking for it. We're constantly looking for it in our environment.

JJ Parker  8:10  
Yeah, some people are definitely way more paranoid about people talking or paranoid. Throwing sensitive footwear. Yeah, about people talking about them. So they will actually come off as cocky or annoyed.

Melissa Albers  8:26  
Yeah. And usually the people that have that much awareness are the ones who are the most interested in the gossip.

JJ Parker  8:33  
That's self awareness from Melissa, if you're paranoid about people talking about you, you're the one who's talking about people.

Melissa Albers  8:42  
It's true. It's so true. Yeah. I mean, you can't notice something and other people unless you yourself, have it. That's why I think it's funny. I mean, like, even the two of us, like, you know, we profess to be we are and we are great professional people, but we love a good gossip. Oh,

JJ Parker  8:57  
yeah. Yeah. For sure. Well, why

Melissa Albers  9:01  
do you what do you think people get? What do you think people get out of a good gossip? Like, what do you think is in it for them?

JJ Parker  9:09  
I, you know, I that's, again, I think, like, fundamentally, I think it is sort of that like, like you said, it's like that pecking order that like, but sometimes actually, like, it's just somehow it's like entertaining.

Melissa Albers  9:27  
Yeah. Right. Yeah. Like that's another component

JJ Parker  9:31  
of like, gossipy, talking about other people. is like, it's a, it's a great storytelling. It's like, it's like great subject for storytelling. And I think like, yeah, fundamentally, like people are storytellers. Yep. Yeah. So like, your story about going to target at nail polish. Isn't that fun? Your story about going to target and hearing people gossip about why someone's boyfriend way more fun. There's more drama in it, it's actually like probably easier for us to make like a fun story about someone else and their actions. The other thing is, people are judgy. Right? They like they like judging other people. And talking and talking about other people is like the best forum to judge other people's actions. Yeah, and everything.

Melissa Albers  10:34  
So what do you think is at the root of that?

JJ Parker  10:35  
At the root of judging?

Melissa Albers  10:39  
judging other people?

JJ Parker  10:42  

Melissa Albers  10:43  
you know, what I think is we are so, so wanting to feel good. That if we can know anybody that's not as well off or in the best standing or as, as as we are, fill in the blank on whatever that is. If we know somebody that's not as good as us, then we're better. See, we're not so bad. We're not so bad. I think a lot of it was also like self preservation, like trying to make yourself feel good.

JJ Parker  11:14  
Yeah, like I feel crappy. But at least my boyfriend's not cheating on me like Trudy's boyfriend does. Like whatever. Right,

Melissa Albers  11:26  
right. Yes. Yeah. Well, at least my best friend would never go talking behind my back. Like, I mean, there's, there's a litany right, it's, it's crazy. It's crazy when you think about it.

JJ Parker  11:37  
Yeah. So this is like, when you get a while when you get deeper about things, right. We talked about like comparing my ads. Yeah. Yeah. How? How, to me like the path to happiness is not is like getting that comparing mind to settle down, right? Yeah. Why judgment? Less comparing? Yeah, but there's something so fun about diving into comparing, like the huge like, our brain. Our brain just loves comparing and, and you talk about our brain as a tool, right. And one of its great powers is its ability to compare things. Yeah.

Melissa Albers  12:24  
Yeah. Right. You know, what else I think happens too. I wonder, like, I'm not saying I'm just wonder if also, it gives us a break from thinking about ourselves. Like, when we're focusing on someone else, and somebody else's issues, whatever they may be, yeah, it gives us a break from the constant self evaluation, which most of us do, oh, yeah.

JJ Parker  12:49  
I like this. This is great. Because like, if we're constantly comparing and judging, if we're just by ourselves, we're just constantly comparing and judging ourselves, which is exhausting. It is, but that's what we do. And then we can take a temporary vacation from that. And judge other people.

Melissa Albers  13:08  
Right. And you know what, here's the other part. So now we talk about the authentic versus the actor self. Mm hmm. Yeah. authentic person would say, in this moment, like you and I are is like, yeah, we do it, too. We all do it. Like it's just authentically the way humans are. We don't know why it probably isn't the best thing. Sometimes it's fun. Sometimes it probably isn't very helpful. Lots of times it isn't very helpful. Yeah, that's yeah, that's the authentic measurement. Now, the actor self says, Oh, I wasn't, I wasn't really doing that. Or the ACT yourself says, Well, I'm just doing it because I want to help. Yeah, you know, this is helpful for me to do this. It's helpful for me to talk to so and so and so and so. About so and so's boyfriend. You know, like, I think

JJ Parker  13:54  
you met him basket. Are you valid, like, positive when it's really just not? Right. Helpful for anybody?

Melissa Albers  14:01  
Yeah. Right. Exactly.

JJ Parker  14:02  
So although, is there any part of this, that helps. Helps you? Like, you know, we're talking about kind of, like, almost like, we're exaggerating some of

Melissa Albers  14:20  
course, being a little preachy. Yeah.

JJ Parker  14:23  
In, in a lot of ways, like, does part of it actually help us? Kind of, like, understand what we think understand how we want relationships to be with other people. Right? Because if, if, if you might hear a story about like, you know, something that happened at work, and it was like, oh, yeah, the, you know, we had this kind of situation happen with a customer and this is how Bob handled it. Yeah. Now, let's think about did Bob handle it in the right way or could he have come at it in a slightly different way? How could I have handled it, you know, And does that could there be positive out of that sort of like little gossip interaction where it's like, we're not really judging the behavior, but we're actually just trying to observing it, observe it versus learn from it and say like, Hey, if we did it a different way, could it? Could we could we serve the customer better? Right. Yeah. Right. And more in an analytical way, in a less kind of sort of gossipy way.

Melissa Albers  15:24  
Yeah. Well, it again, it goes back to the observe not judge. Yeah. The other thing I think happens a lot of times when we find ourselves in the middle of a gossip.

JJ Parker  15:33  
Yeah, the key there is not saying Bob is that customers that say a lot. Yeah. Well, he'd say like, Hey, let's look at our Bob took care of that sale. The security that customer maybe do it a different way. Yeah, not judgy way.

Melissa Albers  15:45  
Yeah. Right. Yes. Yes. Yeah. And make it all about the observation instead of the judgment. Yeah. Right. Because the judgments laced with all sorts of negativity and heavy energy. The observation is, oh, well, this is what happened. And there's different ways next time. Yeah, to approach it. Yeah. And it's okay, we all make mistakes. Yeah, you know, the other guys I think that oh, go ahead. What were you

JJ Parker  16:10  
I just saw like stuck on this like, one little like, bit I like this part, because it's very tactical.

Melissa Albers  16:19  
Oh, good. Cuz I was just gonna talking about energy.

JJ Parker  16:23  
Why no, you can do that just one second. So like, we can analyze the situation, but like, the, the awareness part for me. Well, I just wanted to like, close that part off with the awareness part. Yes. When when you're talking about how Bob handle the sale. And you can feel when it shifts into that judging mode. You might say like, oh, yeah, well, I totally could have closed that deal. Bomb, kind of like, mess that one up. Yeah. And that, and you actually kind of get that good feeling. Right? Because like, we're sort of wired for that, like we were saying before, right. We're kind of wired for that pecking order thing. It's just interesting to think about when you're in that gossipy kind of situation, if it starts feeling good, that might actually be the sign that you're going the wrong way?

Melissa Albers  17:20  
Well, if it's legitimate feeling for the right reason, right?

JJ Parker  17:24  
Yeah, I think yeah, like, that would be a thing I would have people think on if you kind of like sucked into the energy, you kind of start amping up a little Yeah, totally, totally. Like, oh, that might be the signal that you should stop. Yes. Because I totally, I recognize that work all the time. When I start kind of getting sucked into that energy. I often I'm like, well, nope, this is not a thing I participate in. I need to stop gotta go on this. Right?

Melissa Albers  17:47  
Yeah, I think too, it can be something very basic cause like, when a lot of times when we're gossiping about somebody, it's because they have done something, or they are something that we recognize in ourselves that we do not like. And that feeling sits on us that feeling of discord inside of us, like I don't like when I am this way. And now look at Bob's that way, like Bob is so that way, and that just is so rough, that's terrible. And that's, he's Bob's terrible. And what we're actually trying to do is displace the feelings we have about ourselves to Bob, because it's so much easier to express that and to have a judgment about someone else. Because, you know, God forbid, we would ever admit how strongly we're judging ourselves, right?

JJ Parker  18:35  
Switch to energy, like I, I didn't realize that this like, sort of benign topic would cover so many like good nuggets, it's really well,

Melissa Albers  18:45  
here's the thing, like, as I would say, in any of my coaching conversations, when we get to this part about something happen, and you notice it on the outside, you know, you have a you have a choice every single moment to just shift something even five degrees and make a big difference, right. So even in that moment, like where you're talking about where everybody's going after Bob, and it starts to feel kind of fun. I think that the emotion is what you can change is which is exactly what you said, shifting the energy. So rather than talking about someone and having the energy of it being heavy, or dark or not helpful, the very best thing that you can do if you truly are wanting to help somebody so like if you're in this moment of having these conversations, and it is a pure desire to help somebody, the very best thing that you can do for that person is to see them doing well. To push out the energy and picture them doing really, really well. Even people talking about you know, we've used the word gossip but even talking about somebody else. Let's say somebody is sick. And everybody's talking about oh, did you hear so and so sick so and so sick? That is creating an energy that isn't helping that other person. So if you are generally wanting to be helpful, the way to shift that is to constantly picture that person being well, every single time you think about him every single time you think about the topic, picture it going well, and that can start to shift the energy into a more positive, out out put and input like it makes you feel better doing that as well.

JJ Parker  20:23  
Yeah. Like, whatever he was like, oh, like selling so sick, while you know they eat too much gluten. Yeah. If they just cut out sugar.

Unknown Speaker  20:33  

JJ Parker  20:34  
exactly. Yes. Yes. We do that all the time. Right. No, we jump to these like, kind of ridiculous solutions. Like it's like they have fundamentally people want to be helpful, right? Yes. Yes. And, and fear. And part of this is like on an attempt to be helpful. Right? Yeah. So we kind of talked about gossip as like a net kind of in an in a negative way. But I think a lot of times, like the true intent is help. Yeah. But like you're saying it doesn't put out the right energy.

Melissa Albers  21:12  
Yeah, it's the energy behind the the conversations, the energy behind your thoughts. And if you're if your energy is based in fear, like, because that's what people do, like they'll diagnose or so and so sick. Well, if they just would stop eating so much sugar. What that is that instant reaction is fear. Yeah, I don't want that to happen to me. Yikes, I don't want anything to happen to that person. Because I love them. Well, if they would have just done this, which then pushes out dark energy, rather than, Oh, that's too bad. Well, I'm going to see them doing really well. I'm going to see them turning around. And that is something that we can practice really quite easily. You know, even if I have a hard time stopping, talking about other people, we can certainly shift the energy in which we do it internally. And we don't have to tell anybody we're doing that we don't have to make any big overtures, we can just very quietly shift five degrees, and it makes a huge difference.

JJ Parker  22:02  
Yeah. What? Like, what, how do you like, you, like we talked about kind of getting sucked in the energy, and then you're talking about, like, changing the energy or pushing out? Like? I'm just thinking through, like, like, how do we, you know, again, like part of this is like recognizing, when we're getting sucked in? Yep. Then changing the way we're thinking about it. Mm hmm. Right. And push out this other energy? Like, do you have any tips for stopping that? That train?

Melissa Albers  22:43  
Yeah, I, yes, actually, I can tell you what I've done. And it's an again, it's just a really common coaching conversation is you have to notice your energy first. And you'll notice when you start getting amped up, you can tell when you're starting to get excited. That feeling in your body sits there and you go, oh, like you can feel yourself locking loading, right? Like, oh, yeah, I'm in for the ride. As soon as you feel that feeling. That's your place to go, oh, I recognize this feeling. This is that feeling that I get right, as I'm in really engaged. And I know it's on the other side of this is I feel guilty. I'm going to change that like this feeling of Ooh, I'm really invested. Like, I just want to gossip, I just want to talk about I just want to know what's going on. Even if it's not gossip, it's like, Oh, do you know something? Like, I want to hear what it is like that energy of wanting that so much has a feeling inside of your body? And what is it serves as sort of gets you leaning forward in your chair? It starts with making you walk towards other people like what is that? And as soon as you feel that, recognize, oh, there it is, again, and thank your system for showing it to like, Oh, thank you for showing me that. Like, I'm so excited. I in the moment, notice that that's what I was doing. Like congratulate yourself feel good about that. And then when you're in that spirit of sort of having that good feeling, extend it out to the other people. You know what, I'm just gonna, I'm just gonna assume that's all good. Well, and I hope that person's doing well. So I think it's all within that it's inside, right? It's and you don't have to say anything. This isn't about doing or going and writing something down or acting different. It's nothing. It's all inside activity.

JJ Parker  24:23  
When you're talking like that, so applies to work like that whole, like being in the loop. I know people in the amount of paranoia people get for not feeling like they're in the loop. Oh, totally agree. You know, like most of my job is just to make make sure everyone feels like they're in the loop. Yes, I

Melissa Albers  24:43  
know. Yeah.

JJ Parker  24:45  
I mean, it is right, because not people feel lighter, feel safe. They don't feel comfortable. Yes, scared. All sorts of craziness starts acting out. And so like very clear communication. Right. From an organization perspective,

Melissa Albers  25:03  
right, right. Key. Yeah, that is key and frequent. Little and frequent. Little and frequent, you know? Yeah, I totally agree with you. That's very it is true. It's like, again, it leads people to being in partnership with others and makes us feel safe when we're in a group.

JJ Parker  25:21  
All right, who else we have to talk about?

Melissa Albers  25:23  
I don't know. Give me a couple minutes.

JJ Parker  25:26  
Actually call anyone else specifically. about other people? Well, I this was a fun conversation, I think, yeah. There's so many opportunities to practice and noticing, when you're kind of getting sucked in to that gossip, when and what you're and and what is the thing you're actually seeking? Yeah, when you're getting sucked in? And then, yeah, right, kind of stopping and changing your energy around that topic. I think all those things are really great things. And there's so many opportunities to practice every single day,

Melissa Albers  26:04  
I know. And at bare minimum, if you're having a hard time understanding your own process, and you then you're all of a sudden in up to your neck and you have been for half an hour or however long it's been, you can easily still shift your energy and just go, Oh, I've been doing that. You know what, I really wish that person well, I hope that person feels I hope that person feels better. And every time I think about and I'm going to do that, so you can always start there. We hope that you've enjoyed today's episode. Our mission is to help people become happier and more effective by gaining insight into their own thoughts and feelings. We'd love your support. First, share this podcast with anyone you think might enjoy it. Second, leave us a rating or review on your favorite podcast site. This helps others discover the podcast so we can reach more people. And third, sign up for our newsletter at the self awareness journey.com. This will help us communicate better with you and build our community. Thank you so much for joining us in the self awareness journey. We'll see you next week.

Transcribed by https://otter.ai

Discussed in this episode

Let's get real

Meet your guides

JJ Parker

JJ Parker is a serial entrepreneur passionate about building creative strategy, efficient operations, and unique marketing perspectives. Parker got his start as a student at The Minneapolis Institute of Art, and soon after launched his first company Tightrope Media Systems (TRMS) with a high school buddy in 1997.

Melissa Albers

Melissa is passionate about developing people’s self-awareness and ability
to positively interact with others. She focuses on the importance of
building influence, and highlights the most important relationship we have
is with self first. Ms. Albers speaks on leadership and self-awareness, and
has shared the stage with John Maxwell (Leadership Author and Speaker),
Lee Cockerell (Exec VP of Disney) and Les Brown (Motivational Speaker) to
name a few.

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