英語趣談:人人每天花52分鐘說人閑話 Gossiping是生存之道?

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Gossip是什麼? 《牛津字典》把它定義為︰Casual or unconstrained conversation or reports about other people, typically involving details which are not confirmed as true.信口道來的,未必是真確的說法。最重要的元素是”about other people”。

《劍橋字典》的定義則有些少分別:Conversation or reports about other people’s private lives that might be unkind, disapproving, or not true.這個定義亦提到gossip是講「別人」的談話,卻收窄至”private lives”(有關私人生活的),再加上負面的元素:”unkind”(不友善的)、”disapproving”(不滿的、批評的)和”not true”(不真確的)。這定義與︰No one gossips about other people’s secret virtues,沒人會背後說人好話,不謀而合。

Gossip可用作名詞,解流言蜚語、小道消息、說長道短、閑話,喜歡說東家長、西家短的人也叫gossip或gossipmonger。 Gossip又可用作動詞,解說是非、講閑話、說長道短、傳播流言蜚語。

Gossip是壞習慣,所以有很多民間智慧,告訴我們如何防避說是非的小人。 “Anyone who will gossip to you will gossip about you.”(來說是非者,便是是非人。)明顯地,中外都有這樣的觀察。 Gossip無處不在,沒有人可以逃出它的魔掌:”Doesn’t matter what you do, or how you do it, your neighbors are gonna talk about you anyway.”(無論你做什麼、怎樣做,街坊都會講你是非。)

人類本能 改善反省

Gossip令人討厭,所以大家都覺得自己不會gossip。但這是實情嗎?

Everybody gossips. Sure, we like to think that our daily conversations are strictly productive(有用的) idea exchanges and debates about life’s unanswered questions. But in reality, we all talk about other people. In fact, a new study published in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science found that the typical person spends about 52 minutes per day gossiping.

人人每天平均花52分鐘說人閑話。但話說回來,這些研究對gossip的定義比較中性:”talking about a person who isn’t present. It’s not necessarily about spreading malicious rumors(惡意的謠言) or embarrassing stories, just sharing information.”

在人背後談別人,不一定是說壞話,講的可以是生活小節,這已算是gossip。從這角度看,就很難說自己沒gossip。 Duke University心理學教授Mark Leary說︰”Gossiping is a fundamental(基本的) human instinct(人類本能) because our lives are deeply rooted in groups. We not only live in groups, but we also depend on the people in our groups to survive.”

人類是群體生活的,gossiping是俗語的「收風」和「放風」,目的是知道大圍的情況,這有助提升存活機會,所以只是本能。有學者更認為gossiping是有益有建設性的行為。

Gossip may even make us better people. A team of Dutch researchers reported that hearing gossip about others made research subjects more reflective(深思自省的); positive gossip inspired self-improvement efforts, and negative gossip made people prouder of themselves.

另外,發現自己被人「唱衰」,有助我們反省改過,變成一個更好的人。

你亦可讀Matthew Mitchell的Resisting Gossip: Winning the War of the Wagging Tongue,看看有什麼方法可以抵抗gossip的誘惑。

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