Remember that jealousy and envy, when they’re allowed to bring their gifts and skills forward, are not focused on me, me, me. The particular genius of these two emotions is focused on fairness, equity, relatedness, and loyalty in relationships and social structures.
When people fall into toxic gossip, they’re nearly always reacting to the loss of these things and to inequality in their important relationships. Asking about the needs of everyone in the situation leans into jealousy and envy’s skill set; both emotions keep their eye on balance and fairness in the social structure as a whole.
What’s amazing in this practice is that when gossip is made conscious, you can clearly see what a stupendous information-gathering tool it is. When people are given the freedom to share all of the intricate social information their jealousy and envy have gathered, they can access the deep, socially aware, and emotionally rich undercurrents that exist in gossip and in gossip networks.
Gossip helps us connect with others, understand human behavior, recognize or change our social position, and support (or modify) rules and set them for others. Gossip also relieves tension—because it allows us to share the private information we’ve learned about others but are not allowed to mention in public. Gossip is a very powerful thing!
Adapted from an excerpt from The Power of Emotions at Work: Accessing the Vital Intelligence in Your Workplace by Karla McLaren, M.Ed. Copyright © 2021 Karla McLaren. Published by Sounds True in August 2021.