Saturday, November 08, 2008

Our society's need for gossip

I've just been thinking about psychology, and Martial Arts lately, and I noticed something really interesting.

People attack other people more with our words than with our fists. We do not need to look far for evidence of this. The recent negative election commercials that have been flaunted in our faces for weeks have revealed this tendency in a very loud way.

Everyday, people wage a war of words. We attack others when they are not around to defend themselves. At times, people will spread nasty gossip about others ruining lives, and careers. In fact, many comedians have made a lot of money with this type of comedy. We see people attack others with angry words to their faces, especially during rush hours. It sometimes seems like people will verbally attack others whether there is a response and reaction, or not. The victim's personal response isn't as important as the actual act of expressing the negative words.

If we, as Martial Artists, work towards using self-control in our physical aggressive tendencies, then it would only make sense that we would also look towards the same kind of verbal control.

“From the moment a child begins to speak, he is taught to respect the word; he is taught how to use the word and how not to use it. The word is all-powerful, because it can build a man up, but it can also tear him down. That’s how powerful it is. So a child is taught to use words tenderly and never against anyone; a child is told never to take anyone’s name or reputation in vain.”
Henry Old Coyote, Crow Tribe Author,excerpt from Respect for Life

But why do we attack others with our words? What are we protecting ourselves from? Or what benefit do we see coming from this activity? I can tell you why I would strike someone with my fists, or feet, but why would someone feel it necessary to attack another person verbally?

"Psychologist Frank McAndrew, a professor at Knox College in Galesburg, Illinois, who has published more than two dozen articles in scientific journals and is author of the book "Environmental Psychology," says "We can be moralistic about it and say only small people gossip, or people with nothing better to do. But I just think it's wired into us."

McAndrew believes that people used gossip in early civilizations to position themselves for higher status. He says “how successful you were at attracting mates and reproducing, depended, to a great extent, on your social skills and knowing what other people were up to.”"

I am starting to believe that a person feels an imagined power, and in more control of their environment when they verbally can express themselves in a negative manner. Similar to the fable of the fox and the grapes, the fox stated that the "grapes were sour anyway" when he wasn't able to reach, and eat them.

Is there a way to de-escalate, and curb this aggressive verbal behavior in others? Now.. that is an area in which I would like to research farther.


Mathieu said...

Telling others to stop.

works wonders


Ruth said...

Interesting post. I always wondered why it seems so hard for some people to stop their wagging tongues? Now I know, its built in to our DNA.

The best way I've discovered to de-escalate gossip, is to say, I'm not happy to talk about xyz unless they are present. Mostly it works. Sometimes the person carries on anyway!

I'm still working on holding my tongue, when I become the subject of a verbal attack ... The line between when to say something and when to just take a deep breath is very blury and hard to distinguish!