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My Thoughts On Gossip [Sep. 15th, 2006|11:23 am]
Wade
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In which Wade discusses his dislike for gossiping. And manages to do so without talking about anyone behind their back.

[Warning: This entry could be somewhat offensive to some, even though this is not my intent.]

I dislike gossip. That is, I dislike people talking negatively about others when the person being talked about is not available to clarify and provide perspective.

Why do I dislike it so much? Strangely enough, it has nothing to do with any negative personal experiences with gossip. I have no recollection of ever finding out about malicious/inaccurate gossip being spread about me. In fact, when I discover that others have talked about me when I'm not present, I'm usually pleasantly surprised; I just don't assume people talk about me at all if I'm not present, and when I find out they did, it usually gives me warm fuzzies (but admittedly this probably wouldn't happen if what they were saying was negative). Also, the above is not meant to imply that noone has said negative things about me (I'm sure many people have). I just haven't learned about it. So, actually experiencing the negative consequences of gossip is not the reason I dislike it so much.

I can, however, identify quite a few reasons why I do dislike the whole idea of talking behind someone's back. First, it is incredibly prevalent (in a very unpleasant way) in the tiny rural environment I grew up in. It quite literally is the most common hobby for everyone to engage in, and for many people (especially people who for whatever reason are not busy all day long with farm work) it is their primary means of interacting with other adults. Even though I grew up in this same tiny rural community, I knew very early that I didn't think the same way everyone else did. As a child, I read incessantly, and my understanding of the world came more from books than from the tiny culture in which I lived. From books, I learned that there are profoundly different ways of thinking, and that they are equally (or more) valid than the one being exhibited in my real-life community. I am so very frustrated with the close-mindedness and intolerance that rural communities exhibit. The amount of acceptable deviation in behavior from the "norm" (and there really is a "norm", in these rural communities) is incredibly tiny compared to in larger communities. And is completely foreign to truly large urban communities in which there simply is no "norm" to force people towards.

As an aside, the above might give you the impression that I experienced persecution for being "different", or felt that I had to pretend to fit in in order to avoid such persecution. But I don't remember that being the case. In fact, when I was a teen, I don't know if I even realized how differently I thought from most of the people in the hamlet I grew up in. My mother and I were very close when I was a teen, and I had no reservations about telling her anything. But in hindsight, that was simply because I hadn't ever done anything that she disapproved of (I really was close to a perfect child, if I do say so myself :-) But when I went away to university, I started realizing that my mom and I thought quite differently about many things. About cultural diversity, about sexual orientation, about political philosophies, about sex itself, etc. Nowadays, conversations with mom are rather amusing, because we quite literally are on opposite ends of almost every spectrum you can imagine.

Although I don't remember suffering negative consequences personally from gossip, I am a fairly empathetic person in some ways, and can easily imagine how hurtful it would be if someone were to find out about negative things being said about them behind their back, so it always makes me very uncomfortable when I am involved in a conversation that turns towards gossip. For one, the perceptions of the individual doing the gossiping are influenced by their own biases and flaws. It is highly unlikely that the gossiper has made any real effort to understand where the other person was coming from. After all, it is easier to pigeon-hole and assume people are "bad" than it is to try to really understand them.

Furthermore, why talk negatively about someone else behind their back? It doesn't help them improve themselves, and instead just makes their life more difficult because others now have a more negative opinion of them (justified or not). And if personal improvement isn't the motivation, why is the person gossiping?

Having said that, I *do* understand that gossiping can be a psychologically *enjoyable* act. Often, such negative comments stem from internal unresolved anger/irritation/frustration directed towards the victim of the gossip. Being able to vent ones negative emotions can be therapeutic. And some people might even argue that it is better to say such negative things outside the earshot of the victim, so as not to hurt them. But this hypocritical attitude is even more offensive to me than gossip. In fact, I've just now realized (LJ really is a tool for growth!) that part of my intense dislike for gossip stems from my even more intense dislike for hypocrisy (I won't go into the reasons for that here - another entry some other time :-) I really am of the opinion that if you cannot say something to a person, you shouldn't say it at all. But keep in mind that I *want* people to give me constructive criticism about the things I am doing that bother/irritate/offend or otherwise produce negative responses in them, and I very much prioritize honest above social propriety. So I'm not advocating that we should only say positive things, and never say negative things. Just that if you are going to say negative things about someone, why not talk *to* them. It is almost a guarantee that such a conversation will reveal that at least some of the negativity stems from misunderstandings, rather than from some universal "badness". Or that the gossiper will realize that the *reasons* the one being gossiped about are due to personal insecurities or difficulties, and that they deserve empathy and help, not persecution.

Let's go back and revisit the argument that it is better to say negative things outside the earshot of the individual so as to avoid hurting them. Ignore my objections about prioritizing social propriety over honesty, and my equally strong objections to people's apparent preference to live in self-delusion rather than know about negative truths. There is still something very wrong with this argument. Imagine yourself being in a situation where you find out that someone has said something negative about you behind your back. Compare the hurt from that with the hurt you would have experienced had they told *you* the things that were bothering them (hopefully with your best interests in mind, with constructive criticism and a receptivity to having their impressions swayed by the intentions behind the actions they found so objectionable). Wouldn't you agree that there is less hurt in the latter than in the former? In fact, even if they were rather inconsiderate in how they present their thoughts, I can easily imagine the "behind the back" hurt being much more significantly hurtful. If they do take some care to present their concerns to you constructively, it will most definitely be much less hurtful (with much more potential for positive things to come from it) than hearing about the same thoughts spoken behind your back.

Admittedly, however, we cannot just compare the hurtfulness of (retroactively discovered) behind-the-back comments and a more direct and honest approach, because we must take into account the possibility that the individual doesn't discover the behind-the-back comments. If the person doesn't discover the gossip about them, then one might argue that there was no harm done. But this is patently absurd. First, even if they do not find out, they are still harmed (by having someone else now holding a more negative opinion of them, without any ability to clarify or explain). Second, the victims of gossip seem to very often find out about what was said. Gossip about gossips is, after all, poetic justice. If you say something negative about someone to a third party, and somehow expect them not to tell others what you said, you really are deluding yourself.

Now, lets revisit my comments about gossip being enjoyable. I think part of my intense dislike for gossip is my personal understanding of how it can be *enjoyable*. Because I really dislike finding something so petty and negative to be enjoyable. So I conciously stop myself from indulging in the act, even though I too experience a (sick) kind of pleasure from it. Gossip can be very addicting. The more you engage in it, the more difficult it is to stop. The more you engage in it, the more you attract others who also like to gossip. The less you gossip, the easier it is to not gossip. And the less you gossip, the fewer gossips you attract.

Yet another reason for my contempt of gossip is the implicit manipulativeness of the act. Gossips are setting themselves up as the arbiters of what is and is not acceptable behavior, implying that the way they think is "right", and the way others think is "wrong". A perfect example is the situation where a female is labelled as a slut. This word, when used negatively, says much more about the speaker than it does about the target. The word is meant to be hurtful. It is meant to chastise another for behavior the speaker considers inappropriate. But who the hell are they to dictate what is appropriate for someone else? And what does the word "slut" (used negatively) actually mean, anyway? I'm not asking about the dictionary definition, but the definition used by the talker. Usually, it means "someone who has had more sex than me (which obviously makes them inferior because I'm more pure)". Alternatively, the speaker might not care at all about the sexual activities of the victim, and instead be using the term purely a means of being hurtful or trying to make other peers dislike the victim. Ugh. I cannot begin to describe how distasteful this dynamic is. If someone is being sexually promiscuous, there are usually two possible reasons. One, it is a cry for help. Two, they want to be. In either case, labelling them a slut is absurd. If it is a cry for help, why not help them? If they like sex, how is their enjoyment negatively impacting anyone elses life? The term "slut" can be an incredibly powerful, erotic thing (and yes, there is a journal entry coming on this topic).

Hmmm. More reasons for my dislike of gossiping. There is a cliche that females are more likely to gossip than males. Much of this stereotype is invalid, because our society selectively uses different terms to describe the same actions, depending on the gender of the ones involved in the action. A bunch of girls sitting around talking are labelled as "gossiping", while a bunch of boys sitting around talking are labelled as "talking". Stereotypes can be self-fulfilling, after all. However, I *do* think that there is a gender difference in how problems are resolved. Males tend to be much more direct about differences of opinion, while females are much more circuitous and circumspect. And there are positives and negatives associated with both of these approaches. For good or bad, females are often much less likely to confront the individual with whom they have a disagreement than a male would be (for many different reasons). Instead they talk about the issue with friends, and otherwise negotiate in a manner that is very foreign to male (or at least my) thought processes. And yet almost every female expresses frustration with the cattiness and spitefulness of other females. Puzzling stuff, I tell you. Why not try compassionate, sympathetic, real honesty? Seems much more productive, but maybe that is just me. And yes, I know I am being snide. Almost catty, even. :-)

The reasons for disliking gossiping just keep multiplying! Here is another. I have always been very bothered by someone having an inaccurate perception of me. If someone dislikes me because they really know me and for whatever reason just don't like what they know, that is one thing. Not pleasant, but certainly acceptable, and (in many situations), quite understandable. For example, I can easily understand why a person who incessantly gossips would dislike me. People don't usually like people who have contempt for one of their defining characteristics, after all. I can also easily understand why a person who interprets my appreciation for candor as rudeness, would dislike me. In any event, if they really *know* me, and dislike me, that's ok - it is acceptable to dislike someone when you know them. But I am really bothered by someone disliking me because they believe something about me that isn't true. This is not an earthshattering observation - I'm sure everyone dislikes this situation. But the observation relates gossip in that if someone says something behind my back, I have no means of explaining where I was coming from. And although I agree that actions are the most important consideration, intentions certainly have some significance. And even actions themselves are so very easily misinterpreted without active clarification. Sadly, people seem more prone to gossip than to spending the time to truly understanding an interpersonal dynamic.

To wrap up this entry, I need to do a little meta-communicating. I am aware that the tone of this entry could be offensive and off-putting to some, because it implies that I am some paragon of virtue and that gossip-mongers are evil. I'd like to clarify that I most definitely am not claiming to be a paragon of virtue. I have many personal flaws - it is just that gossiping is not one of them. A tendency to gossip, or the lack thereof, is only one of many, many personal characteristics. As well, there are an infinite number of shades of gray between "refuses to gossip" and "talks negatively about others behind their back all the time". I'm not claiming I'm better than anyone, just because I conciously refuse to gossip. I *am* claiming that refusing to gossip is better than partaking in gossiping. I *am* stating that if a person starts saying something negative about another person when I am present, I will ask them to stop.

I realize that an entry like this can be somewhat problematic, because it will come across as a direct attack on at least some of the people who read it. It was a mistake for me to use second-person pronouns in this, but I'm sorry, I'm too lazy to go back and change the entire tone :-) On the other hand, I quite intentionally chose the word "victim" to describe the target of gossip, even though it is not a neutral term. I assume most people agree that gossip is objectionable, even if they engage in it, so it shouldn't be too biasing to use a word that emphasizes the negativity. I could have used "target" or "recipient" or some other word, but "victim" seems entirely appropriate. After all, the targets of gossip are, by definition, unable to defend themselves.

If you have ever gossiped, and especially if you regularily do so, you have a variety of choices. You can get pissed at me for expressing contempt for this activity, and choose to ignore everything I've said and maybe even disavow further contact. Alternatively, you can respond with arguments that demonstrate that there are positives associated with gossiping that outweigh their negatives. Or you can acknowledge that gossiping isn't nice, yet continue to do it anyways. Or you can take this diatribe to heart, and conciously decide to stop gossiping. Stopping really is quite easy. If someone says something negative about someone else, hold up a hand and say "I don't want to hear negative things about someone unless they are present - I gain pleasure from such gossip, but feel that it is counterproductive and not in their (or our) best interests". It works quite well. If you do this, and discover that you no longer have conversations with your friends, get some new friends :-) Yes, I know I'm coming across catty. I'm sorry, but I really, really dislike gossip.

One last thing. In a situation like this, I can completely appreciate that expressing any opinions counter to those expressed here has some real inhibitions associated with it. However, I *want* to hear some counter arguments, and *want* to explore the various sides of this issue that have not been addressed. I *want* people to play Devil's Advocate and point out things that I haven't expressed or considered. For example, one big topic that I haven't yet discussed is about the fact that gossip is not always white and black. Is the statement "He cheated on his last girlfriend" gossip, or is it an important thing for a friend to know if she is contemplating a relationship with him? I do realize this, but I want to wrap this up - I'm going to go eat some cookie dough now. Anyone want to continue the thread?

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Comments:
[User Picture]From: _luaineach
2006-09-15 04:05 pm (UTC)
I think you nailed it with "gossip is not always black and white". I think people label it "gossip" if they don't *like* what is being said about the person (or, more accurately, assume the person being spoken about wouldn't like it). If someone says to me "oh, I had lunch with X, we had a great time" and I say "oh, I can't stand X, she's such a bitch, she totally screwed Y over last month in this..." how is that any "worse" than my saying "oh, I love X, she's so fabulous, she totally saved Y in this situation last month..."?

I certainly understand the theory of "if you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all" but it is not one I subscribe to in practice entirely.

And there is, of course, the whole different "level" of gossip in which what the gossip is is essentially telling somebody's secrets. That's just ratty, whether labled "gossip" or not. But, again, it is a situation that in real life I don't have an overly-pronounced sympathy towards: If you are ashamed /hurt by having your actions/words discussed, don't do actions/words that shame you. Or grow a thicker skin.

To me it really is that simple.

But, in terms of myself and "gossiping", my never-veered-from rule is that I NEVER say anything about anybody to anybody else unless I would also say it to them directly, or about them if they were right there with us.
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[User Picture]From: metawade
2006-09-15 04:34 pm (UTC)

Hi _luaineach! I don't think I've asked you what you prefer to be refered to by in our correspondences. You prefer _luaineach or _luaineach, or your first name, or your first initial, or something else entirely?

re: black and white ... Yeah, when I wrote that paragraph, I realized that the subjectiveness of rumors really should have been the center piece of the entire article, but didn't want to revamp everything (I'm supposed to be getting other things done today, after all :-) I should have avoided posting it and done a better job though.

I don't think I understand your point here though. To me, there *is* a big difference between "she's such a bitch, ..." and "she's so fabulous, ...". If for no other reasons than because our screwed up human psychology tends to make negative statements carry more weight than positive ones, meaning that the former is more biasing to the listener in magnitude than the latter is (even though both represent biases on the part of the speaker).

re: nice or nothing... This is very much related to your last point, so I'll postpone.

re: secrets... I agree with both of these points, but the danger behind the "if ashamed, don't do it" is that often the secrets being revealed aren't about things the person is ashamed of, but rather, things society things are shameful. A perfect case in point is polyamory. If a person is poly, raising children in a poly environment, and conciously not advertising their polyness for fear that they children will be taken away, and someone reveals this secret, then this is just *bad* all around!

re: simple... we all like things simple sometimes. I really wish reality will comply :-) Except when I don't want it to be simple.

re: rule ... This is exactly my rule - I meant to state it more clearly in the write-up, but obviously didn't. Actually, I try to live up to a slightly more militant version: If I *haven't* already said it to them directly, I don't say it to anyone."

I don't advocate "if nothing nice, nothing at all". I *do* advocate "say negative things (in a positive, constructive manner) to the person involved *first*, and make sure that the views held are based on reality, not personal bias."

Thanks for the comments!

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[User Picture]From: m_danson
2006-09-15 04:08 pm (UTC)
I used to share your opinion completely but experience and research into group dynamics has modified my opinions slightly. I don't have time to write a full response now so:

Note to self: write about gossip from the point of view of group dynamics, individual vs group benefits/costs, usefulness (rather than right or wrong), find social currency posts & gossip posts for reference, definition of gossip/networking, methods of managing gossip, member/outsider perspectives, give-to-get
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[User Picture]From: metawade
2006-09-15 04:35 pm (UTC)

Note to ms_danson: Don't forget about this note to self. I'm definitely interested in hearing more!

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[User Picture]From: _luaineach
2006-09-15 05:28 pm (UTC)
Looking forward to reading this when you get around to writing it.
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[User Picture]From: m_danson
2006-09-15 05:38 pm (UTC)
I intend on writing before the end of the weekend. I'm gathering together the articles I want to use as references now but it is going to take a while to get everything together and pull my thoughts together. I'll probably post it in my own lj rather than here.
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(Deleted comment)
From: deeevamp
2006-09-15 04:35 pm (UTC)
I used to gossip and now I just tell it like it is. Gossip to me is talking unproven stories and most likely lies about others when they are not present. "Did you know that Mrs. Brown down the street fucks the mail man every Thursday at two?" When all they saw was the mail man going into Mrs. Brown's house for milk and cookies.

I think I'm on the same page as _luaineach. I tend to speak my opinion of someone when they are not around. And this is alright in my world because I would speak my opinion of the person if they were standing in front of me. You shouldn't be surprised by what I say because I'd say it to you too.

Additionally I think I don't feel this is terrible because I expect everyone talks about me. I have a very tough skin and I'm just quite happy that people talk about me - it doesn't matter what they're saying (so long as it's TRUE). You know it's kind of like, "I don't care what you call me so long as you call me!"
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From: deeevamp
2006-09-15 04:36 pm (UTC)
Apologies for trying to fix this three times and fucking up each one, but I'm anal. LoL
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[User Picture]From: metawade
2006-09-15 05:12 pm (UTC)

You cannot possibly know how completely unnecessary that apology is D! I *soooo* totally relate - I've done exactly the same thing many times over. Once, I think I had to edit the same frigging comment 5 times.

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[User Picture]From: metawade
2006-09-15 04:44 pm (UTC)

re: tell it... This made me smile. I don't agree, but it made me smile. You haven't changed your behavior at all, just the semantics on the words you use to describe the actions :-) I'd argue that even if Mrs Brown is fucking the mailmain every Thursday at 2 (she should consider some variety in times), I see no benefit to anyone involved in this information being conveyed to a third party.

re: if they were around ... The danger with this is that it is easie to think you would say it to the person than to actually say it. Or, more importantly, that in talking about it with them, you'd probably discover that your initially quite negative impression has been somewhat (or entirely) ameliorated by a deeper understanding of *their* perspective on the matter. Someone saying hurtful things behind someones back because they would be ok saying those same hurtful things in exactly the same way to the person (and not caring that it is hurtful) is *not* an personality trait I find remotely appealing.

tough skin... But not every one does, and interpersonal dynamics are about taking both (all) people's views into consideration, not just one's own. And although it is easy to claim "I'm tough-skinned" (and is often true), I think tough-skinned can also be a real negative - so protective of ones own ego that there is no means of self-improvement occuring based on feedback from other people.

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[User Picture]From: _luaineach
2006-09-15 05:09 pm (UTC)
I don't have a lot of time to reply today either, but I want to jump on what I think are the two main areas where we differ, and I'll do it in response to this comment because they are so highlighted here (and then get to responding to your comment to my comment when I have time).

and that's the "hurtful" and "tough skinned". And where we differ is that you seem to think it is *my* responsibility what *you* (the person being talked about) finds hurtful. In my world, there is nothing inherently hurtful in *any* words -- all emotional reaction is choice. You call me a stupid bitch and my *choices* are a) to be "hurt" b) to determine whether or not I agree with you c) based on my answer to "b" determine what, if anything, I'm going to change about myself because of your statement. I can't remember the last time I ever chose "a" and, yes, because I *am* apparently a cold hearted bitch I have zero sympathy for people who *do* chose "a".

If something I say hurts your feelings that's because, in my opinion, you are choosing to allow my opinion of you to matter more than your own. And this is leads to where we disagree on "tough skinned". In my world "tough skinned" is not "protective of ones own ego to the exclusion of self-improvement". It just means that I can *objectively* look at your negative comments and, as I said above, determine if they have any validity in comparison to my opinion of myself.

And the fact that "not everyone does" is of pretty much zero concern to me. Because, as it ties into something you said in your comment to me, the "fact" that negative comments carry more weight than positive ones, is a socially conditioned trait IMO and, again, one that is entirely avoidable depending on how much value you place on other's opinions vs. your own conscience. And putting more weight on the former vs. the latter is certainly not something I am going to *perpetuate* by catering to it.

This should probably be way more fleshed out than it is, but I'm time constrained big time.
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[User Picture]From: metawade
2006-09-17 04:28 pm (UTC)

re: responsibility... Although this attitude is nice in theory, reality tends to require that it be softened around the edges a little. Before continuing, let me note that I *agree* with much of what you are saying, just not the extremity of the position. Avoid the temptation to assume I am taking the opposite extreme, for I most surely am not.

I agree that I have a responsibility to own my own emotions. I do *not* agree that you don't have *any* responsibilities with respect to my emotions. You have a responsibility *not* to say something to me motivated purely from a desire to hurt me. Note, however, that this is very different from "don't say anything that will hurt me". If you have my best interests at heart, then saying hurtful things is a good thing. But when someone says something with the *intention* of hurting someone else, there is much more overall negative than positive (the only positive being the pleasure one receives from hurting someone else, or feeling superior, or revenge, or whatever other "benefit" one gets from hurting another)

re: tough skinned... Here is my concern with taking this philosophy to extremes. When someone says something that is hurtful to you, do you experience hurt, then process it, or do you simply no longer ever feel hurt? If the latter, how can you be sure you are not missing out on an opportunity for growth? Even if it is the former, without some concious care, it is easier to dismiss negative input than it is to really look at oneself objectively and assess the validity of the statement. There is a profound difference between "choosing to allow your opinion of yourself to matter more than mine" and "choosing to be completely unaffected by my opinion". One's perceptions of self *must* be at least partially influenced by the perceptions of others. Which is more "real", your perception of who you are, or the consensus perception of everyone with whom you interact? Are you defined by your *intentions* (which only you really know), or are you defined by the *effects* you have on others (which only *they* really know)?

One definition of self-confidence could be "places more confidence in one's own opinions of self than in other's". But there is obviously a danger here, based on whose perceptions of "reality" are more accurate. Self-confidence can be entirely justified, or it can be totally unjustified, but is usually somewhere in between (some based on accurate assessment of strengths, some based on self-delusion).

re: negative vs positive... I certainly agree that it is a socially conditioned trait. I also agree that it can be ameliorated depending on the emphasis on self-image versus opinions of others. But again, there is a difference between "my opinions matter" "noone elses opinions matter". You are implying that you can avoid being at all hurt, but if this is based purely on the ratio of weights attached to the opinions of self vs. others, isn't zero hurt only possible if there is zero consideration of the opinions of others? As an aside, I have an alternative (and complementary) solution for addressing this negative/positive bias (related to your comment about perpetuating by catering, which I wholeheartedly agree with).

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[User Picture]From: _luaineach
2006-09-15 05:36 pm (UTC)

And aside that just popped into my head...

still busy working with no time to write, but it occurred to me that perhaps what is really meant when people say they are "tough-skinned" is that they are *happy* in their skin. That would certainly be true in my own case.
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[User Picture]From: metawade
2006-09-15 06:05 pm (UTC)

Re: And aside that just popped into my head...

Exactly. So very many things end up being affected by the subjectivity of natural language. When someone says "tough skinned", they have a specific semantics associated with it, and often are unaware that (or the degree to which) the listener can have a profoundly different semantics. I am truly amazed sometimes that humans ever manage to understand each other at all, given that *every* word and phrase has this underlying potential for semantic difference between speaker and listener.

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[User Picture]From: _luaineach
2006-09-15 06:19 pm (UTC)

Re: And aside that just popped into my head...

I am truly amazed sometimes that humans ever manage to understand each other at all, given that *every* word and phrase has this underlying potential for semantic difference between speaker and listener.

And I think they do because by process of elimination one ends up with a tribe in which the semantic differences don't exist (i.e., are shared associations) or are understood already as differences and what those differences are ("okay, when *she* says xyz she means what I would mean by saying "abc").

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[User Picture]From: metawade
2006-09-15 06:22 pm (UTC)

Re: And aside that just popped into my head...

Telepathy would be *way* better. At least for those of us without much in the way of privacy issues.

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From: iisz
2006-09-16 02:07 am (UTC)

Re: And aside that just popped into my head...

Oooh, I think some really weird stuff. I don't want people to randomly access that. Telepathy would be scary.
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[User Picture]From: metawade
2006-09-16 05:38 am (UTC)

Re: And aside that just popped into my head...

No worries - aluminum foil is cheap. You might look rather silly, until society becomes accustomed to seeing the privacy-concerned walking around with foil helmets. But you'll be ok.

I totally don't think of the stuff I think as weird. But other people seem to think I'm weird (but probably not in the same way you are implying about yourself).

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From: deeevamp
2006-09-16 01:39 am (UTC)
_luaineach pretty much went on to sum it up perfectly here. All I have to say is that most people would not say what they think to others, however I would. Trust me. rofl

I have a very interesting way to handle dishing out negative comments to dear friends and not have them insulted. It's nothing I do on purpose I've just always been able to keep peace easily even being myself. However when I do talk to someone and they are insulted by what I say, I will take the time to go over it with them in that "now let us examine exactly why you've chosen to be insulted" way.

I'm pretty sure my attitude and loose mouth has created the very strong circle of friends I have. It's very rare that anyone who "shouldn't" be around me sticks around on their own for long. :)
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[User Picture]From: metawade
2006-09-17 03:55 pm (UTC)

I have no doubt that you do. Trust me. :-)

Constructive criticism is good stuff, and ones attitude (and other peoples knowledge of your personality) go a long way in establishing whether it really ends up being construct or not. The "now let us examine ..." strategy works wonders, I agree.

I suspect you are correct. The only reservation I have about that dynamic is the potential harm caused to those people who have not stuck around.

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[User Picture]From: _luaineach
2006-09-15 05:10 pm (UTC)
Gossip to me is talking unproven stories and most likely lies about others when they are not present. "Did you know that Mrs. Brown down the street fucks the mail man every Thursday at two?" When all they saw was the mail man going into Mrs. Brown's house for milk and cookies.

Yes, I agree with this.
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[User Picture]From: metawade
2006-09-15 06:23 pm (UTC)

I'm quite curious about the reasons behind Mrs.Brown's activities. Which is *exactly* the slippery slope that needs to be defended against. Curiosity is good. Until it isn't. :-)

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From: deeevamp
2006-09-16 01:43 am (UTC)
My hometown was the small farming community powered purely by cows and gossip. I knew Mrs. Brown. I knew many Mrs. Browns. I always felt that if Mrs. Brown just said she was fucking the mail man, life would be better.

Gossip in such towns is so often fueled by the fact that someone doesn't want everyone to know their business. You say ahh, but it really is no one's business, and to that I say ahh learn how to keep better secrets. So many people don't want others to know what they're doing, yet they carry on in front of everyone else. LoL
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[User Picture]From: metawade
2006-09-17 03:51 pm (UTC)

Amusing - we probably have at least some similar childhood memories. I *totally* know where you are coming from. Although the "small farming community" I grew up in was so small that there was probably less extreme horribleness than in a slightly larger environment. I don't know Mrs. Brown (although admittedly I wasn't privy to gossip about her, so I wouldn't know - I was pretty oblivious - too busy reading books to pay attention to the real world).

People really shouldn't have to learn to keep better secrets. They should be able to make moderate assurances of privacy, and be confident that that is sufficient. But others end up *intentionally* trying to circumvent those privacy measures - an act I find quite offensive (and this coming from someone who really basically has no privacy measures in place at all - I say this because I appreciate that many people are wired very differently than I am).

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From: iisz
2006-09-15 11:26 pm (UTC)
While I was reading this, I was thinking about one of my pet peeves, which is when people say to me, "So-and-so said this about you." Unless it is a matter of life and death, or similar import, I don't see the point in telling *me* that. And then I get very suspicious of their motives. I think it is what they want to tell me is wrong with me, they just don't want to own it.

I don't like gossip, because if it useless information, then I haven't time. And as mentioned before, I am not so good at remembering who knows what, why, and how. Further, I feel a need to ask people about negative things I hear about them (which makes me the schmuck in the original point). I asked someone recently to stop telling me weird old bad stories about people I'm seeing, because I then need to just "know" that about them, or I need to ask them to clarify.

Re: slut...
I have a warm feeling about that word. I use it to refer to myself and close friends frequently :). I also like being called that when I'm having sex, and a whole lot of other names (except bitch, I can't stand that word) that I think are sexy/dirty. Part of it is my exhibitionism, and part of it is a sort of inability to understand why everyone doesn't want to be a slut. Of course, I have motives for thinking that way. ;)

I have no counter arguments, because I have worked hard to not be a sneaky kind of person, and I think gossip is sneaky. I have a firm rule never to divulge personal things about exs, even if the break-up is bad, because I think it is unfair, and I hope they do the same for me. I withold the right to process things that effect me though.
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[User Picture]From: metawade
2006-09-17 04:58 pm (UTC)

re: pet-peeves... I suspect that females experience this more than males. Or maybe it is just me - for some reason, I have had very little experience with this kind of back-stabby dynamic. Hmmm. I have a vague sense of it happening more in highschool. Is it possible I have self-edited my memories so as not to remember these negative things? (yes, of course it is possible - is it probable?). Maybe.

re: information... Besides the empathetic objections, definitely another motivation for me not to gossip is what you mention here - being very open and straightforward with people is entirely at odds with having to remember "oh, they can't know this". I stop people from saying bad things about others because I do NOT want to have to remember that I cannot talk to that person about this thing.

re: slut... Will it come as a surprise that I am writing an entry about the concept of slut? And that it is already very long and sure to get longer? I didn't think so. Actually, I am finding that entry surprisingly difficult. I am almost *certain* that I *know*, at a very deep, visceral level, what it feels like for a girl to be a slut in bed (as opposed to the *totally* different feeling that comes from being called a slut in a hurtful context). But trying to actually *describe* that former feeling of "being a slut" is proving difficult.

Although I find The Ethical Slut a wonderful book, and think it has done wonders for rehabilitating the word slut, the semantics of the word slut, as used by that book, and by the poly community, are yet a third kind of definition (as opposed to capturing the real feel of the first kind of definition above). In some ways, by trying so hard to reverse the negative semantics of the word, The Ethical Slut has made the word *too* clean, too "good", too "innocent". Which ends up taking away some of the *intensity* involved in "being a slut".

I can identify girls whom I talk to regularily today who fall into all three of these categories. In the "slut as bad person" category I'm involved in a LJ dialog with someone suffering thru exactly that persecution. In the "slut is good" category, Sue definitely fits - she has actively identified as a slut for many years. In the "slut is *hot*" category, I've been involved a cyber dialog with a girl (Laura) who is exremely aroused by the act of *being a slut* (and just to clarify, since I can see the potential for misidentity, I'm not refering to the girl i've been being a weenie about). I mention Laura because I do not know anyone else who is as strongly aroused by the idea. And since *being a slut* is sooo very very much about the mental side of things, and I'm way wrapped up in the mental side of things, I have a very deep understanding of what she gets out of it (and, since my enjoyment stems so much from the erotic enjoyment of others, what I get out of it). Extenuating circumstances mean I'm roadblocked from exploring things physically with her too, which is really quite frustrating. But I can gain amusement from my frustration - the kind of frustration is quite different between her and the new LJ girl). The former is purely sexual, wherease the latter is could be more. Poor me, I'm so hard done by. :-)

re: sneaky... Yay for us non-sneaky people! Boo to the sneaky people!

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[User Picture]From: dancing_nerd
2007-04-03 05:53 pm (UTC)
There is such a fine line between gossiping and venting--its really difficult sometimes to tell the two apart! Venting is really healthy, but gossip is just awful (after all, who are we to judge anyone??), so how do you accurately and precisely tell the two apart?

I use 2 cirteria, and I think it works, for the most part. 1) Make sure the person that you are venting to will not repeat your rantings. This is easier said than done--you probably can only trust a *very close* friend with this. I'm lucking enough to have A to trust with this :) As an aside, its always important to ask permission to vent first. You don't want to put your confidant in an odd position. 2) After venting, you and the confidant should try to figure out the motivations/issues of the other person/you, and try to pose solutions to the problem. (Keep in mind that sometimes the solution may be to just do nothing, maybe the act of venting was all you needed to do to dispell some pent-up energy.)

This second criterion turns a negative conversation into a positive interaction, because you are actively trying to understand the situation and be pro-active about fixing it. For me, at least, this turns it from a rant into a conversation that I would not be afraid to have in front of another person.

In response to negative comments being more hurtful when not being said to one's face, I cannot agree more. There is *nothing* that makes me more angry than finding out someone else talked "stuff" behind my back. I find it cowardly, and it pushes my Bitch Button (I cannot abide cowardice). I *will* confront the offending party, and there *will* be a face-to-face "discussion." If a face-to-face confrontation isn't possible, I get frustrated, because I cannot "fight" back since I don't gossip.

This is, generally speaking, why I don't let others know too much about me and my lifestyle. I find it amusing that the people in my department think I'm a middle-of-the-road, semi-conservative reclusive lab-fiend.

Re: female gossiping vs. male talking, I think you make an important point. Women have been vilified to some extent because of the mysoginist slant on the English language (yes, you can roll your eyes now ;). Much of women's communication is totally functional and valuable. The image of gossiping biddies sitting on a porch is archaic and inaccurate. I am sure there are *some* people that entertain themselves that way (your town sounds like that kind of place). However, I think the sterotype that all women gossip is very harmful because it invalidates our (women's) way of bonding and communicating.

There's my $0.02. :)
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