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THERAPEUTIC Exchanging tales is a good way to let off steam

THERAPEUTIC Exchanging tales is a good way to let off steam  

You no longer need to feel guilty about gossiping. Researchers say it's a great way to beat stress

It started as God-sibb - a person of God. During its long journey through centuries, the word somehow came to mean wicked, unethical and unconstrained conversation. If you accept this definition of gossip, you may have an evil streak in you. There is no getting away from it: all of us gossip. Nine-tenths of all we say can be labelled as gossip. More people than you can count read gossip columns.

Old habit?

Glossies make profitable business out of our "tabloid appetite". We religiously watch news that has little relationship to truth. We bond with talk shows where people hang out their personal lives. This age-old human habit is not simply letting off steam. It is creating stories that make sense of our friends and ourselves. "Vocal grooming" is essential to our social, psychological and physical well-being. Consider it as an exploration of human psyche, as an analysis of behavioural patterns. Ask Nasreen and Priya, software engineering students, and they smilingly admit: "Yes, we gossip. We pool in what we've seen or heard to speculate who's got a crush on whom. We also kind of guess what's likely to happen. It's just time-pass." "Boys? Yes, boys do gossip," grins Siddharth, a student. "But ours is mostly through SMS. The minute someone stops talking to a girl, our thumbs fly. We give him the lowdown on the girl. We stay connected at all times on fast-finger mode. It's all harmless, you know." A researcher says: "Mobile gossip restores a sense of community and provides an antidote to the pressures and alienation of modern life. Mobiles are a `social lifeline' in a fragmented and isolating world." And if you think women are more prone to whisper-over-the-fence, non-productive talk, think again. Men just label it as "necessary survey". They critique restaurants (the coffee is excellent, prices are reasonable, but go early), cricket (Ganguly or not?), politics (will the alliance break?) weather, colleagues and the boss. Women thrash out TV serials, recipes, personal aches and pains, instant remedies, in-laws, colleagues and the boss.Relax. For every smug "Gossip? Never!" there are ten arguments to vote for real, face-to-face "chitchat" over public scandals that the media make a profit of. When women are shouted into submission, they resort to gossip as a safety valve either by nature or through compulsion.Think calmly. Spit out the bile, they say, and feel relieved. Any psychologist will tell you chatting with friends is a good stress buster. It's lack of communication that causes of most of our problems!Gossip is danger-speak only on two occasions - when a simple remark turns into a Chinese whisper with a definite aim to slander and brings disrepute or when baseless (as opposed to exaggerated) rumour is a deliberate instrument to bring harm. Used well, gossip can relieve stress and boost the immune system. It can be a vital therapeutic activity. Trading stories enhances team-playing skills. Go ahead. Call your friends for a crisp, juicy, guilt-free rant.G.P.

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