Gossip has evolved as a way of protecting the social network. Study after study reveals that it’s actually a part of the social support in community, and has its benefits. But did you know that people will begin associating you with the aspects of the person’s story you are gossiping about? If you become known for spreading negative news, people start to see YOU as being negative. Malicious gossip also marks the gossiper as untrustworthy and will actually seal them out the circle of important information (something you DO NOT want, if you want to live a long healthy life)! Apparently, however, the old fashion “over the fence” style conscientious “gossip” actually makes people trust you a little bit more; it’s like you’re sending an unconscious signal that you are looking out for the folks in your community – a survival association happening deep in the ancient parts of our brains.
Because gossip skills are related to survival, they are likely impaired or enhanced by the health of our INSTINCTUAL STACK. The Enneagram of Personality unpacks this as the three parts of “Body Intelligence:” the Social Instinct, the Sexual Instinct, and the Self-Preservation Instinct. We need all three. We need a solid dose of social bonding and awareness, we need the life force of chemistry and attraction, and we need to take care of ourselves as creatures who need things to survive. The Social Instinct is where the kind of bonding and community-watch impulses, that produce social protections like gossip, are kept “front and center” in our attention and behavior. Yet, that does not mean that having a social instinct that is a heavy-weight in the personality is a good thing.
What Riso and Hudson repeatedly found in their exploration of this aspect of personality health is that BALANCE is the product of personality health, and that applies to the instinctual stacks as well. So, a balanced approach to gossiping may be a mark of a healthy social instinctual engagement with our community. The “When Gossip Can Save Your Life” issue of The Daily Beast highlights this aspect of healthy social network gossip skills, and notes that people who do not engage in gossip at all are also, perhaps unfairly, but still consistently, mistrusted in groups.