Did you Hear? . . . Positive Gossip

Today’s article contains simple but powerful wisdom from Dr. Lynn Johnson, PhD, author of ENJOY LIFE! Healing with Happiness.  For a great introduction to Lynn (and his dog Ruby,) visit his website http://enjoylifebook.com/ and watch the one minute video for a brief lesson on happiness.

Homer Simpson once said, “If we aren’t supposed to eat animals, why are they made of meat?” If everyone knows gossiping is bad, why do people do it? The answer is simple. We humans spent most of our history in small tribes, and it is vital in a small group to know whom you can trust. We have an inner gossip-interest part of our brain and we like to hear about other people.

Unfortunately, bad is about three times more powerful and interesting than good. It is just how Mother Nature made our brains. So naturally most of our gossip is about people’s shortcomings and failures.

In this essay, I propose we outsmart Mother Nature and gossip positively. Positive gossip will lift your own spirits, it will make other people like you more, and it will eventually get back to the person you gossiped about and inspire her or him. Everyone benefits from positive gossip. Ask yourself, where would you rather work, a place where people stab each other in the back or a place where people say nice things behind your back?

Let’s look a bit further into this topic: 

First, give yourself a challenge to engage in positive gossip. Try it out. Make a point of saying nice things behind the backs of your co-workers. How does it make you feel? When we do something nice, it is one of the most elevating experiences we can have. Recently my sons got me into some new skis, and we went up on a day when there was deep powder. The new skis were wonderful and I went down steep slopes with confidence and ease. It was a thrill, one of the best days skiing I had ever had.

At the end of the day as we left, we saw a couple of kids who had parked in a foolish place and were stuck in a deep snowbank. Since we drive a four wheel drive Suburban, I stopped, got out the tow rope and pulled them out. While the day was great, doing a favor for foolish young people was far more enjoyable. I think if you will try positive gossip, you’ll have that experience over and over. When you do well at work, it is great. But saying positive things about others is going to feel much better. 

Second, now experiment with shifting conversations from negative to positive. A co-worker says, “Did you hear how Bob blew the Jones account? They hated his presentation and now we might not get bonuses because of him.” What can you do there? 

“What a shock,” you can say. “Generally, Bob is quite good at these things. I have seen him do some very good work with clients, so I am confused. I know he did well with the Smith account. There must be more to this story.” 

Now you have shifted the tenor of the conversation. You might be able to say, “Let’s stop by Bob’s cubie and see if there is something we can do to help. After all, we can all benefit from turning this thing around.” Be a leader, and determine to shift conversations. 

Third, wait for it to come back to you. When you have been an instigator of positive gossip, you will become the subject of the same kind of positive gossip. You are seen in a more positive light, and you will see people becoming more friendly and warm towards you. After all, if you gossip about others positively, they will feel more trust in you. Ancient wisdom from all cultures teaches this. In the Asian cultures, there is the principle of Karma, and in the west we call that the Law of the Harvest. As you sow, so shall you reap. 

Positive gossip creates an environment where people begin to look for the best in each other.  Many psychological experiments have shown that appreciation and optimism are beneficial for all organizations, from your family all the way up to whole multi-national corporations. Some companies are simply better places to work than others. You naturally want to work in the best place you can. Be the change you want to see in the world. Start today to gossip positively. 

References and recommended reading:

Johnson, L. D. (200).  ENJOY LIFE! Healing with Happiness.  Head Acre Press.

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5 Responses to Did you Hear? . . . Positive Gossip

  1. Stacy February 5, 2011 at 1:35 pm #

    Dr.Johnson, I love this concept! Typically when people complain to others, it easily creates a space where the other person feels comfortable to complain and it perpetuates negativity. I can imagine if more people actively engaged in positive and mindful gossip, that also could have a ripple effect in a working or personal environment. I also like the idea of taking responsibility when someone says something negative to me about someone else. My habit has been to ignore the comment or change the subject. But why not challenge and engage myself to go out of my way and make it positive? Thanks for this great blog post!

  2. Leah Argento July 25, 2012 at 3:29 pm #


    So glad I stumbled on your blog. Its packed with so much positivity! And I am purchasing your ebook today; what a wonderful tool for our industry.

    Many thanks!

  3. Dr Lynn Johnson July 25, 2012 at 4:10 pm #

    I just got involved in this group. I hadn’t done anything with LinkedIn, and asked a friend about it. He told me to join groups, and positive psychology groups are what I would want. So today here is an old blog post of mine! I am so pleased! What a great welcome I found when I checked my email today. Many thanks!
    Lynn Johnaon


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