Although gossiping is a habit that has some negative connotations, it’s something most everyone participates in. It’s somewhat of a bonding move because it unites us, just like any other type of shared interaction.
A study published in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science found that we spend 52 minutes each day engaged in gossip. And if you think that sounds high, gossip in this instance is not synonymous with divulging secrets and whispering behind someone’s back.
The study found that the majority of the gossip we share is harmless, made up of neutral information that doesn’t paint anyone in a bad light. Mentioning to your coworker that your brother moved across the country or that your dad adopted a new cat are ways of communicating and cementing relationships.
“About three-quarters of the conversation we heard in our sampled conversations was neither positive nor negative,” says Megan Robbins, one of the psychologists who lead the study.
The research consisted of analyzing snippets of conversations caught by participants who were wearing portable recording devices for two to five days. These recordings showed some interesting evidence, like the fact that women and men engage in the same amount of gossip and that extroverts are more likely to talk about others when compared to introverts. Around 15% of the gossip shared had some sort of negative judgment attached to it.
NPR reports that although negative gossip is hurtful for those at the center of it, it’s a practice that can also lead to self-reflection. If a coworker complains about the fact that you’re lazy, you might feel awful but you’ll surely monitor your work performance more closely. Same if you warm up smelly food in the office’s microwave and get the stink eye from everyone else in the building.