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iVillage.com: Indulging in Guilty Pleasures

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Gossiping

Why it’s OK: Gossiping is a form of social glue -- it solidifies friendships and brings people closer together. Even two strangers can forge a bond by talking about others. “It’s an expression of mutual trust,” explains media expert Richard Weiner, author of an upcoming book on gossip. “The gossiper feels like a big shot to be in the know and the recipient feels grateful to be in the loop.” Plus, the threat of being gossiped about can keep others in line. Knowing that you could be badmouthed makes you less likely to act like a self-centered jerk, according to research in the journal "Social Psychological and Personality Science."

When to indulge: Weiner advises people to consider their intentions whenever discussing others. If it doesn’t benefit anyone and may in fact cause harm, it’s best to keep judgmental words to yourself. However, Weiner believes that most gossip about people we know, rather than celebrities, can be useful. There’s gossip (“Did hear? Deb is having a baby!”), and then there’s gossip (“I heard Jane cheated on her husband and got herpes!”). Stick to the first kind and people may see you as a dependable source for news in your social circle.

Don’t overdo it: Research shows that when we slander someone, our audience unconsciously assigns the negative traits to us that we pin on others. For instance, if you call Janie an idiot, the person you’re talking to now unwittingly associates that quality with you. Luckily, the phenomenon, known as spontaneous trait transference, works both ways, so if you say good things about others, those positive qualities will also get assigned back to you.

(Credit: George Marks/Retrofile RF/Getty Images)
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The opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Comcast.

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