Quick Class 9: The truth about gossip – B1/B2

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Discuss the following:

  • Do you like to gossip? When is it okay to gossip and when is it not?
  • Where do you usually hear gossip the most?
  • Are there benefits to gossip?
  • Could bad things happen as a result of gossip?


Listen to the audio and summarize the main points shared by the speaker.


Match the words and definitions*

a)      Small talk1)      To keep something from happening; to stop something from developing
b)      Character flaw2)      To make something smaller or fewer in size, amount, degree, etc.
c)      Bonding3)      A person of the same age, group, status, ability, etc., as another person.
d)      Prevent4)      To speak openly about something
e)      Peers5)      Trivial or unimportant conversation
f)       Eager6)      An imperfection or problem in a person’s personality and/or actions
g)      Decrease7)      Characteristic of wanting to do or have something very much
h)      Spill out8)      The process of developing a close relationship with another person


Read the transcript and check whether or not you have summarized the main points correctly.

The truth about gossip

What was the last good gossip that you heard? Did it make any difference in your life? Did you learn anything important from it? The most common answer to these questions is no. But what if I told you that gossip is not just small talk? As it turns out, gossip is actually a social skill rather than just a pastime or even a character flaw.


Scientists like Francis McAndrew, a psychologist from the University of Knox, Illinois, have pointed out a series of positive aspects of gossip, such as: bonding with other people, learning social rules, norms and values of a particular group, preventing unwanted behaviors in others, and comparing ourselves socially to our peers. McAndrew also states that gossip is then essential to making our groups function as well as they do.


And there is also a more political aspect to gossip. That is, if a person refuses to participate in a conversation where gossip is involved, he or she could suffer the consequence of social isolation. But if a person is too eager to gossip, that may damage their reputation. Finding the right balance may be the difference between appearing to be a reliable and friendly person and someone that you cannot trust.


Another study conducted by the Centenary University of Louisiana suggests that gossip happens more often depending on how institutionalized a place is. Meaning that the more hierarchy, bureaucracy and information control there is, the more gossip there will be. That’s simply because people want to know what’s going on around them. And it tends to result in some unexpected positive effects too.


For instance, psychiatrists from the University of Pravia, Italy, have discovered that gossiping even makes our brains produce a larger dosage of oxytocin, the hormone which is linked to the sensation of pleasure. While the levels of cortisol, which is the hormone associated to stress, decreased after some secrets had been spilled out.


So think about that next time you gossip! But try not to do too much of it, please.





*Answers (exercise 3): a-5, b-6, c-8, d-1, e-3, f-7, g-2, h-4


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