"Pssssst! Did you hear what she said? He did what? How could she have said that?"
Whether it's a whispered conversation over coffee with a friend or a late-night telephone gabfest with your sister, gossiping bestows a feel-good aura on women who are feeling stressed-out, jilted or just having a bad day. And while it's been criticized as idle chatter, or worse, gossip is beloved by women everywhere.
If you're wondering just what women get out of dishing on others, and why it feels so completely satisfying, here are the top 10 reasons why women just can't stop themselves from indulging in one of life's naughty little pleasures.
1. Gossip gives women a feeling of fitting in with others. It's almost like telling a secret to someone else, which means that you trust the person you are talking to. "And that means you are forming a bond over gossip," says Diane Lang, MS, certified counselor and therapist and the author of Creating Balance & Finding Happiness.
2. Gossiping helps you make friends. "By gossiping and sharing dark secrets, you are actually helping to form friendships," Lang says.
3. Gossip reduces stress. For some reason, hearing bad news about other people actually makes us feel better. "It gives us a happy feeling to hear that our lives are better than we thought," Lang says. "When you hear someone got fired, for instance, it's not that you are happy about that. But we can compare ourselves to that person and feel like our lives are going in a good direction."
4. Gossip helps us process our experiences, says Irina Firstein, LCSW, a relationship expert. "Women have a need to share their experiences with another person, much more so than men," she says. "Gossip helps us dissect and digest what's happening with us."
5. Gossip helps validate our feelings. When you need validation for your point of view, it helps to go talk about someone who you feel has wronged you. It helps to say to the other person: "How could she do this?" "You are not looking for truth or for reality," Firstein says. "You just want to be reaffirmed, usually about upsetting things."
6. Gossip helps you deal with every day life. "It is a primitive coping technique," Firstein says. "If someone upset you, or you are jealous, gossip helps you sort it out."
7. Gossip is a great way to network. When done carefully, it can be a form of self promotion and can enhance your status at work, Lang says.
8. Gossiping is a learned trait that we observe in others and that we pick up as a way to feel good about ourselves. "You may have seen it in your parents, only they might have called it networking or said it was for work." Lang says. "By the time you were in middle school, you had observed that gossip looked like fun."
9. Gossip lets women dissect relationships with other women. "Men are focused on work and achievements, and just aren't generally that interested in relationship stuff," says Firstein. "Women like to digest all of the relationship that's going on with them and gossip gives them the opportunity."
10. Gossip makes us feel a little guilty, but it doesn't come with a motherload of negative guilt-producing angst. Like cutting a class to spend the morning in the park or eating a chocolate cupcake when we know we shouldn't, it's one of life's small pleasures, and one that we're not likely to give up any time soon.
Written by Rosemary Black,dlcounseling.com, for Hybrid Mom