Ever have one of those days when you’re just tired of gossip? Gossip among your friends. Neighborhood gossip. Office gossip. Online gossip. Political gossip. Celebrity gossip.
It never stops. And it can easily be too much. You just want it to go away.
Sadly, wanting gossip to go away is like wanting the weather to go away.
Gossip is a HUGE chunk of human experience. In his book, The Science Of Storytelling, Will Storr states that not only is two-thirds of human conversation basically us gossiping with each other, but some scientists believe that the main reason why language evolved in the first place was the inherent need for primates to gossip. Homo Sapiens was the result.
He also talks about how gossip, at its core, is pretty binary: Joe Caveman did something for the good of the group (selflessness), or Joe Caveman did something only for his own benefit (selfishness). This is how groups police themselves. Spreading information amongst the group about who’s in or who’s out. Who’s good or who’s wicked, who’s dangerous and who’s safe, who can be trusted and who can’t.
This means two-thirds of human conversation is not about high art, poetry, technology, and the meaning of life, but just the same, common concerns that people AND other primates- chimpanzees, gorillas, orangutans, etc. have ALWAYS worried about.
For all our fancy words and the amazing progress we’ve made over the millennia, it’s always amazing how little we’ve actually changed over time.
In the business context, many people try to minimize this interaction but it’s part of what keeps us functioning in the first place.
What makes this interesting here and now is how knowing all this affects the idea of remote working.
People tend to gossip a lot more around the office water cooler than they do on Zoom, especially when they know the Zoom call is being recorded.
Yes, people might be able to get more work done from home, but what about human interaction and connection? And how does the absence of it affect our organizational culture?
Many of us have notions about this, but the jury is still very much out.