Gossip drive the world. The stories we tell about other people reflect a lot. Even if we claim we don’t care what others think what others think moves the world around us. And I would posit that this actually isn’t a bad thing. It can drive closer bonds and increased connection.
There is a concept in evolutionary psychology called indirect reciprocity. Natural selection favors strategies that base the decision to help on the reputation of the recipient. Social interactions in which one actor helps another and is then benefited by a third party are key to cooperative reputations.
This isn’t just a systemic population level issue either. People who are more helpful are more likely to receive help. It’s uneven obviously and people can obscure their reputation. Depending on if you are up or downstream of helping or being helped, you make different calculations. Some people help more but they feel it’s worth the cost. They are downstream. Others accept more help because they are upstream. We are all making trades based on our position and arguably they are fair market trades.
How we decide to cooperate and with whom is driven considerably by reputations and shared value beliefs. Relaying reputation signals to bolster your capacity to connect to others is actually a key part of empathy. We need to establish psychological safety to partner with each other. Gossip helps us find suitable relationships. This is especially true in disciplines which require creativity. Quoting myself on the topic of psychological safety in venture capital.
If entrepreneurs are solving entirely new problems with high chances of failure feeling like they can trust their financial partners should be a top priority. Yet the atmosphere of distrust is pervasive. Venture capitalist and entrepreneur are constantly managing the information flow between each other.
Managing the information flow is a key component of gossip. Showing you understand their context, their fears and their reputations concerns helps you. An act we denigrate in popular culture actually helps you to deepen the relationships as each signifier breaks down space between two people and builds trust. So don’t knock gossip. It has evolutionary, societal and individual benefit. Just remember the ultimate outcome is about bringing people closer.