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Bonding through Mutual Dislike
Mom with a View

Bonding through Mutual Dislike

Is gossip really a good way to create relationships?


While Jewish tradition suggests that closeness and unity with others is created through giving, secular psychology has another suggestion. To quote the summary of this impressive research described in Ladies Home Journal (Sept. 2006), "Bonding may go best precisely when what you and your buddy have in common is a dislike for another person."

In further encouragement of this activity, the article encourages us that "trash-talking friendships can actually be powerful."

Yes -- powerfully hurtful and powerfully destructive.

Although we all recognize the tendency, even desire, to speak negatively of others, most of us are also aware of its deleterious impact. Most of us are trying to, at the very least, minimize it in our lives. At the most, eliminate it all together. Will we then be relegated to a life of loneliness? Will we have few friendships or less powerful ones?

I like to think that what my friends and I have in common goes a little deeper than a shared dislike. (It's the shoes!) I like to think that what connects us is something more substantial than rumor and "dish." (The shoes again!) In fact I like to believe that rarely do we engage in the pastime of putting down others.

Not necessarily because we're so righteous but perhaps because the struggles of our own lives -- as individuals and as a community -- are so much more pressing and important. And so all-consuming. Our desire to grow and change and behave with thoughtfulness is a deeper bond than the latest news in People magazine.

Of course we sometimes want to gossip or speak lashon hara to a friend, especially if we're hurt and confused. Sometimes we do it with appropriate justification. Sometimes we do it with no justification. But we don't usually do it as a way of deepening our relationships. In fact I would like to challenge the research. I would suggest that it stopped too soon. While speaking ill of mutual acquaintances may initially create a bond, a habit of such behavior will be alienating and make all "relationships" suspect -- the old "what is she saying about me to our other friends" concern.

I'm certainly not perfect (my kids want to second that motion). And I'm certainly not immune to the desire to speak or listen (or bond). Yet when a society takes an obviously poor character choice and elevates it to a positive act that creates relationships, I have to open my mouth. Trash-talk is used to intimidate another team on the football field. Seems a strange tool for building a deep and lasting relationship.

October 21, 2006

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Visitor Comments: 5

(5) juliesergel, October 27, 2006 7:57 AM

bad deal all around

I had a friend who tended to need to "vent" her frustrations with different people in her life. The thing is, as she got rid of her trash, it landed on me. She, was somewhat clean, for spewing it out, but then i carried it; i remembered it and it was a great burden to me. Personally, i hate gossip. I always have. If people can talk bad about others, you know they can just as easily talk bad about you. It is hurtful venom that builds no one up. If you need to vent an injustice, get it out, but also survey your own inadequacies--and be done with it. Any alliance brought together under such circumstances will never stand for too long--or at least let's hope that's the case!

(4) Joey, October 26, 2006 12:24 PM

SEEMS to Make Better Relationships, But...

If A and B are talking about C behind his/her back, it may be strengthening A and B's relationship, but it's eroding their relationship with C. Gossip may make relationships SEEM stronger, but it weakens at least other relationships just as much or probably more. God bless.

(3) Elisheva, October 26, 2006 10:55 AM

Hear, Hear!

I wonder if the Ladies' Home Journal will publish this "letter to the editor"!

(2) ilana, October 23, 2006 11:52 PM

If all you have to say is bad then

maybe it is better not to say it and to look for the positive in the person/s or situations. I have had a couple of people hold a gtudge against me for near twenty years and the sad part about it is that they are demeaning themselves by what they say about me as I haven't anything bad to say about them. If I wanted to I could, but i prefer to move on and focus on life's positives.

(1) Anonymous, October 22, 2006 11:16 AM

gossip hurts

people repeated gossip about me and my family and it was not true, but damage was so deep and ten years later the same stories are still being told.
I want to see the good in others I want to be motivated by what is good and pleasing to G-d. It is hard when you are the subject of un truths I feel as a Jew I'm on the outside looking in

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