Philip Galanes on Gossip

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Many of us can't resist a juicy bit of gossip, but talking about people behind their backs has caused a lot of problems, hurt feelings, and heartache. New York Times Social Q’s columnist Philip Galanes gives advice on how to deal with gossip! He’ll answer listener questions about gossip among friends and family, and at work. Galanes is the New York Times Social Q’s columnist and author of Social Q's: How to Survive the Quirks, Quandaries and Quagmires of Today.


Philip Galanes

Comments [41]

Lashon Hara be damned! Her brother threatened to kill the new boyfriend of the underage girl her parents let live in their home so that her brother could have a sex partner to calm him down. Now that's a family of child abuse accomplices. Funny...As much as as she loved to trash talk other people's lives, she never mentioned this important fact to anyone about her own family. Judaeism frowns on gossip...but is OK with child abuse...remember the slippery sloped Talmud? Love it! Can't wait to hear more. She loves gossip! Let's not immunize her reputation.

Jan. 24 2014 06:45 AM
Kazzy Kazz from NYC

@Henry from MD
Good Point...I meant to say the following:
He has an inferiority complex [in my opinion] that some people in our western society develop due to unrealistic expectations of height, physical weight etc. I feel he senses the need to put others down to "elevate" himself, in some way [oddly, the guest did touch on that aspect of gossip]. The coworker he is bad mouthing is actually the nicest woman, smart and funny, though, like everyone, not 100% perfect.
I feel he IS hurting her, which is why I wrote in.
So, just to be clear, I never meant any offense to anyone's height and stature, I assure you of that dear Henry from MD.

Jan. 23 2014 11:39 PM
oscar from ny

I like to gossip..I once got in trouble in junior high school for gossiping..I gossip when I want to bond with the's usually with a good friend or family..I suspect my friends and family gossip about me..I find it exitcing and fun but can be hurtful sometimes..I love to gossip also about politics and religion because its such s notted subject..

Jan. 23 2014 01:40 PM
henry from md

@Kazz - "he's physically very short & small himself" - so if he were very tall and big that would be different? - you are quite a genius aren't you.

Jan. 23 2014 01:07 PM

another interesting conversation on LL. here's a link to a recent Times article about some of the gender issues raised by LL, his guest, and listeners. a takeaway, at least in one context: beware of false equivalency ("we're all just as guilty") in the face of evolutionary imperatives.

Jan. 23 2014 12:55 PM

another interesting conversation on BL. here's a link to a recent Times article about some of the gender issues raised by BL, his guest, and listeners. a takeaway: beware of false equivalency ("we're all just as guilty") in the face of evolutionary imperatives.

Jan. 23 2014 12:51 PM
NYCarl from LES

There should be a term that can be used to label actions (judgements, "opinions", physical actions) based on flimsy information.

It should be a very derogatory/insulting term.

It's time for humanity to learn the importance and meaning of data, credence, and sources.

Jan. 23 2014 12:39 PM
Amy from Manhattan

"Eccentric old lady"? Please don't stereotype. Yes, the commenter said she was eccentric, but that's her perception & may or may not be correct. And she didn't even say her employer was old--you filled that in yourself, Mr. Galanes.

Jan. 23 2014 12:39 PM
khadija Boyd from Brooklyn

re-gossip: I do not, specifically since I originated from a nation that relishes gossip/rumors, etc...from both female and male. To me, it is, kinda, oral history, however skewed it may be, born out of utter boredom, frustration, envy, need to feel superior. As to your child, Mr. Lopate, kick ass and talk later. Run, light years ahead, hey? ;}}} ko

Jan. 23 2014 12:38 PM
mark from the Internet

like someone said: "Gossip is the Devil's radio -- DON'T BE A BROADCASTER"

Jan. 23 2014 12:37 PM

I have been in a trio of friends for many decades. Typically we gather in twos these days because of everyone's busy schedules. Usually this means we discuss the absent party. Mostly in a loving this considered gossip? yep !!what can I do to curb this behavior so its not toxic?

Jan. 23 2014 12:37 PM
micanyc from NYC

I was wondering why it is that if you say something positive about someone, it
is more acceptable than if you say something negative.

Jan. 23 2014 12:34 PM

To: Kathy Libraty from Brooklyn, New York - most likely the mutual friends who do not want to associate, prefer the ex over your daughter.

Jan. 23 2014 12:32 PM
wendy from manhattan

I love gossip - I admit it, and it's fun. We share information about so many things, why not about people who are (or are not) in our lives. But I don't like malicious gossip - and don't care for hurting someone second or third hand anymore than I would directly.

Jan. 23 2014 12:30 PM
Wtngxxxx, NJ

Where we live, rich NJ town, she kids & especially the girls, hit 10 or 12 they not only gossip -- they seem to never tire of it. Between the iPod touch, phone, school bus, etc. -- they're ALL toxic gossips. As a parent, how do you discourage this immoral and time-wasting behavior without sounding like a bore to be ignored? If this is the age that girls fall behind boys academically, I am sure I know why.

Jan. 23 2014 12:30 PM
Truth & Beauty from Brooklyn

My understanding is that gossip is a negative thing. In Judaism, we call it Loshan Hara, which means saying a bad thing about someone and potentially savaging their reputation.

There are other occasions in which "gossip," or talking about someone is a good thing. For example, if a friend has a new baby, it's nice to pass on the news, or if someone is ill, you can tell someone who may potentially be of service to the ill person.

It depends on the context.

Jan. 23 2014 12:29 PM

i've always heard that if someone gossips TO you, they are also someone who will gossip ABOUT you. I try not to gossip, so I don't give the impression that gossip to/about me is OK. I don't know if it helps though or if it's healthy to not say something.

Jan. 23 2014 12:29 PM

Where is a good place to hang out to gather more gossip I can pass along. I feel like I don't have enough to share, and I want to spice up my conversations.

Jan. 23 2014 12:27 PM

What I do find is that delivering information, including news, in the witty *style* of gossip, is way more effective than trying to tempt busy people with tracts of text.

Jan. 23 2014 12:26 PM
Barbara Hoffmann from Millrift, pa

30 years ago a wonderful friend of mine said to me, after I had been gossiping, "I know you are a much nicer person than the person you sound like right now".

Jan. 23 2014 12:26 PM

Has gossip gotten nastier since we sent all the smokers outside? (are smokers feeling "picked on" so therefore have the "right" to "pick on" others?)

Jan. 23 2014 12:25 PM
Michael from Manhattan

Isn't gossip also simply our human way of grooming each other? It's an activity to which we devote an inordinate amount of time with no apparent evolutionary advantage. Consider how our nearest relatives, the chimpanzees, spend so much time nitpicking and grooming each other.

Jan. 23 2014 12:25 PM
Kathy Libraty from Brooklyn, New York

My daughter recently broke up with her boyfriend of 3.5 years because she fell in love with someone else. Her now x-boyfriend embarked on a campaign to "slut shame" her by spreading false rumors to all their friends that she cheated on him. Now many of their mutual friends do not want to associate with her. She is innocent, but that is not the point. How should she deal with this?

Jan. 23 2014 12:25 PM

A really insightful guest! he really understands people. Not full of clichés but has real insight into the subject. All I can add is that gossip is a way to bond, an easy way to feel connected. I would not like to be told-I don't trust you since you are gossiping about someone else, you'll gossip about me. saying that is mean; of course you'll gossip about me too. That goes without saying. Saying it is uncalled for. Either gossip or don't but don't call out the person who you allowed to gossip to begin with. That's a holier then thou mean spiritedness.Yes gossiping leaves you feeling guilty[at least it does me].

Jan. 23 2014 12:23 PM
Jor from Greenwich, CT

On this week's Freakonomics podcast, they explore the differences between rich and poor. One of the attributes they focus on is gossiping. One study supports the idea that rich people gossip much less, if at all, compared to poor. What would you say to that assumption?

Jan. 23 2014 12:23 PM
Amy from Manhattan

When I object to people's gossiping about someone we know, they often say, "Well, they're not here." Then I'm tempted to (& sometimes do) say, "Oh, so it's OK if it's behind their back?" & it tends to come out rather testily. Is there a better approach? Maybe "Would you think it was OK if we were talking about you behind your back"? (& I like the caller's suggestion to ask the other person, "What do you say about me behind my back?"--I've done that sometimes.)

Jan. 23 2014 12:22 PM

I swear I've always considered gossip to be sex for people who can't get sex. (I NEVER gossip, and stop gossips in their tracks.)

I also assume that anybody gossiping about someone else with you will also do the reverse and I consider myself as having better games to play.

Jan. 23 2014 12:21 PM
matt from manhattan

For what it's worth, Jewish tradition interprets the Biblical verse against being a tale-bearer as a prohibition of gossip, and furthermore the veracity of the gossip isn't relevant -- even sharing true defamatory information is wrong. (There are exceptions for things that are already widely known or when sharing the information is necessary to protect someone). Please feel free to discuss amongst yourselves...

Jan. 23 2014 12:21 PM
Coogan from NYC

One of my two favorite quotes:

"Great minds discuss ideas; Average minds discuss events; Small minds discuss people." - Eleanor Roosevelt

Those who will gossip to you, will gossip about you. (unknown)

I loathe gossip and idle chatter and rarely like the people who engage in it. It's not good natured, wastes time, spreads mistrust and bad vibes, and only entertains the petty minded person who starts it (who thinks they're terribly clever and smarter than everyone else), often double-faced and back stabbing, cowardly in nature.

Philip doesn't know anyone who doesn't like gossip? Seriously? He lives in a bubble. I and many people I know adore silence, pithiness, and saying what only needs to be said. The rest is cackling chatter.

Btw, personalities often play a huge role here.... if you know a Gemini or someone born Chinese Year of the Snake or Dragon, you already know a gossip. Big personalities, but often obnoxiously indiscreet and overly chatty.

Jan. 23 2014 12:21 PM
The Truth from Becky

I can stop a gossip dead in his or her tracks! Simply by saying "go tell her" or "go tell him" what you think. You risk becoming the target next time you are not around but I don't let gossips feed off me!

Jan. 23 2014 12:16 PM

In MY experience... women Do indeed engage in NASTY gossip more than men.

Jan. 23 2014 12:15 PM
Tom Crisp from UWS

Gossip depends as much or more on conjecture as on fact. The essence of gossip is "filling in the blanks" with imagined details. That's what makes it so damaging.

Rumor, on the other hand, admits that it is unconfirmed. But it's still dangerous. The Italian for noise is "rumore" - pointing to a pretty fair definition of rumor: noise, not light.

Jan. 23 2014 12:13 PM
antonio from baySide

Isn't gossip sometimes a way to vent to someone, who has acted ridiculous to YOU or in general?

Like the idiot who proclaims things that based on materialism, class progression, what your station is currently...(i.e. every social engagement, party etc...);

Jan. 23 2014 12:12 PM
RJ from prospect hts

Are there different rules for different kinds contexts of gossip; i.e., political vs. personal?

Jan. 23 2014 12:09 PM
Kazz from nyc

I currently have a co-worker who talks "smack" behind another co-workers back. Everything from how dumb he thinks she is, to lazy to how he can't believe she works there...But whenever he sees her, he smiles warmly at her, takes cake from her[when offered], and likes to lecture her in topics he thinks she's too dumb to know herself...Does she deserve the right to know he is talking this way behind her back?
BTW: If I made it sound like he's "Einstein" - he isn't! He's a fool himself and I usually filter out 95% of everything coming out of his mouth. He ought be the last person to belittle anyone [he's physically very short & small himself].

Jan. 23 2014 08:57 AM
Faith from Brooklyn, NY

I work in a private home for a very wealthy and eccentric woman. Her staff often needs to lean on each other for support and to vent our frustrations with her odd and psychologically erratic behavior. She has threatened us all that she will not tolerate gossip, as I believe she finds it very threatening and hurtful. I would like to respect her wishes, but am unsure about where the line between commaradierie / support / healthy release and gossip lies. Advice Mr. Lopate and Galanes? Thank you!

Jan. 22 2014 01:49 PM
SKV from NYC

Wouldn't it be nice if illustrations for articles about gossip sometimes used photos of men instead of women? Or one of each? Scientific research has shown men gossip just as much, but it's a gendered issue, and this WNYC photo is furthering and promoting it. FAIL.

Jan. 22 2014 01:08 PM
Kara from Illinois

There is an aspect of patriarchy and control when people talk about gossip. People in power don't like when there is chatter that's off-message. A lot of valuable content discussed is coded as gossip so as to dismiss it.

For instance, calling women who are talking and sharing and connecting "gossipers" is a way to undermine people and relationships. Certainly there are those who share negative info to demean and undermine others, but much of the time it is (mostly) women talking about the realities of a situation and looking for ways to handle it.

I know Philip can speak to the difference here without devaluing the content and relational aspect of people talking.

Jan. 22 2014 12:30 PM
No name, pls from NYC

So glad you're doing this show! How do I tell my sister that she's started gossiping way too much? It's sort of toxic to be around her.

Jan. 22 2014 11:07 AM

Everybody at work talks about this one girl who is supposedly having an affair with the boss. I know it's not true. But I'm not sure whether to tell her that people are talking. What do you think?

Jan. 21 2014 03:40 PM

Here's what I don't get about gossip. We all know it's wrong. So why do we keep doing it?

Jan. 21 2014 02:24 PM

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