Gossip is a dirty word. It’s condemned by parents, community leaders and business professionals the world over. Yet, here’s an interesting tidbit: it’s essential to our way of life. What?!
“Even today the vast majority of human communication — whether in the form of emails, phone calls or newspaper columns — is gossip. It comes so naturally to us that it seems as if our language evolved for this very purpose.”
In Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind, Yuval Harari, PhD, argues that Homo sapiens (that would be us!) survived and even thrived when other human species failed due to our unique language capabilities, including the ability to gossip.
It’s not as crazy as you may think. When you break it down, gossip is conversation about other people. Who to trust, who has the best fresh vegetables and who is unsavory. As a small business owner, I want to know about a customer of other businesses who doesn’t pay their bills or a potential business partner who doesn’t know what ethical means. That’s knowledge that may save me lost revenue, lost time and serious aggravation down the road.
“The new linguistic skills that modern Sapiens acquired about seventy millennia ago enabled them to gossip for hours on end. Reliable information about who could be trusted meant that small bands could expand into larger bands, and Sapiens could develop tighter and more sophisticated types of cooperation.”
It’s similar to the proverbial ‘water cooler’ in the office. You may not want to get involved in office politics but that decision can derail your career. How often do employees label a manager or supervisor aloof or out of touch when he or she doesn’t have a beat on the pulse of the office? You need to know what’s going on — to some extent — in your coworkers’ and employees’ lives. As a business owner, I would even extend that to business partners and clients. It allows you to understand a situation, show empathy and act appropriately.
Is Gossip Good for Business?
Are you familiar with the gossip theory (in relation to evolution)?
Have you been affected by office politics — positively or negatively?
Is gossip good for business?
p.s. Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind is a great read for history buffs and business professionals alike. Want an inkling into what makes people tick? You’ll get it here. Both quotes in this post are from this book.
p.p.s. Love this post’s featured image? Learn more about “Gossip Girls” by Art G. here. It’s used under a CC BY 2.0 license.