Gossip – essential to life?

Gossip, is it bad? We all do it. We all talk about each other. We all believe we shouldn’t do it, or that’s it’s bad … but is it really? I’m not talking about vicious rumour-mongering, I mean simply talking about other people when they are not present.

For example, the closest person to us is usually our partner. I am most likely to talk to my partner about other people in my life (though of course there are sometimes strict confidences withheld). In this talking, it seems to me I get an opportunity to work through my understanding of life and other people to some extent. This talking helps me to analyse other people’s behaviour, measure their ideas against my own, even perhaps helps me to understand myself better. The person I might be talking about might be really important in my life, or maybe an acquaintance I’m just getting to know.

Is that wrong … or essential?

Angossipother example. I might talk to one friend about another friend because these friends are unconnected and unlikely to ever meet. I feel this is a safe environment to share confidences in a way that is not going to bring about betrayal. The individuals are not known to each other and not likely to be known.

Is that wrong?

However, we all know that dreaded feeling … that feeling you get when you realise someone heard what you were saying, and you didn’t Gossip2intend them to hear. It can make you sick to the stomach. Why do we feel like that? We wouldn’t feel sick if they hadn’t heard. It wouldn’t prick our conscience one little bit.

Interesting … why?

Is it because we manage our inter-personal relationships on different levels? There is the face to face aspect, where we carefully consider what we say and do. Then there is the non face-to-face aspect where we consider it acceptable to say different things, as long as the target doesn’t hear. Is this necessary? Or is it somewhat self-indulgent and questionable behaviour?

I had cause to reflect on the nature of gossip during my Master of Arts. I read an academic paper that positioned gossip as an essential component of establishing self-identity and the human condition (by Hazel Smith The erotics of Gossip). Hazel quotes Eggins and Slade who argue that “gossip is a way of making people conform to social norms, while conceding that it affirms relationships.”

It caused me to reflect on the strict social boundaries we have, often unspoken, about how we talk about each other, who we talk to about each other and how we know instinctively when a confidence is implied … or broken.

My conclusion is that we talk to each other, then we talk about each other … it’s a fact of life. The nature of ‘confidence’ is subjective and interpreted.

It’s never going to change. It’s part of the human condition. What do you think?

The Culture of Family

What is your family culture?

It can be hard to ‘see’ the culture within your own family. Why? Because it’s normal. It’s what you grew up with. You are imbibed with it.

Perhaps you might have got an inkling as to your family’s culture when you stayed the weekend with a friend from school. Or better still, when you met your partner’s family for the first time.  Perhaps you may have even been forgiven for thinking that the other family was just that little bit … weird?


Isn’t this because their value systems differ from yours? For example, one family may value punctuality and see it as a manifestation of integrity and reliability. Another family may value spontaneity and see it as being responsive to those in need in a timely manner. Two such values can be quite conflicting.

Another family might value honesty (though we are never really completely honest) but another family might value protecting each other from emotional upheaval as more important.

We value competition in our family and it permeates our reactions to everything that happens. So much so, that I find it hard to imagine a family culture that doesn’t have competition at its core.

Of course all this can become a bit challenging when Person A marries Person B. For the marriage to work successfully, it seems to me that A and B have to make compromises to their value systems. You could call them adjustments. Perhaps this is one reason why the first year of marriage can be so HARD. But if A and B work at it, they end up developing a new value system which is a blend of A and B’s original values. Sometimes the compromises that A and/or B are being asked to make prove too great … and consequently they may decide to separate. That’s fair enough when you think about it, but painful none the less.

The blend of a couple’s two value systems ostensibly turns into a family culture as children appear. All of us work really hard on this, embracing our sense of ‘rightness’ and wanting to raise children with the strength of character we deem important. It’s critical to parenting.

And so the world goes around and generations repeat.

Perhaps if we understood how our value systems differ from our neighbours, might we be just that little bit more tolerant? Love to know what you think.

Staying Young

I had the pleasure just before Christmas of having my nephews come to visit, David and Luke. They paid me a treasured compliment. They said I ‘seemed young’. Woo hoo!

It caused me to ponder why that might be. Here are a few thoughts …

Firstly it could be because I’ve come to accept that my generation’s values are different to those of the current generation … not ‘better’. Every generation has unique challenges – pros and cons to being born at that time. There is no better or worse there just is.
(As an aside and if you are interested in this topic, here is a great article Zoë and Mel shared with me recently that puts it all in beautiful context. http://m.huffpost.com/us/entry/3930620).

Secondly, I recognise that my children can teach me things … that they are quite likely to know more than me on many given topics. It’s my observation that as we age its easier than ever to become dogmatic. C’mon we’ve had decades to try things out and think about things! It’s easy to slip into that sense of superiority that we know things the younger generation don’t. Big mistake. I believe indulging ourselves in this way inhibits our ability to listen to and communicate with them … sets us apart from them and creates the generation gap, I guess.

Thirdly, I’m able to accept my children as young adults with thoughts, perceptions, feelings and conclusions that may be similar to mine or different. Either way is okay. At some point I accepted that they were responsible for themselves (during their teenage years). It wasn’t my job to train them anymore. Of course it is lovely when they come for advice or to talk things over, but in the end I respect the decisions they make in their lives.

Is this why my nephew’s perceived me as ‘young’? I wonder.

Perhaps it’s because I try on some level to embrace some of the emerging thinking and changing cultural values, despite my baby boomer conditioning.

Perhaps it’s all a mix that just comes out as ‘me’.

I’d love to know your thoughts.


Cow-power or Man-power?

We were out moving some heifers last week … trying to give them access to the little feed we have left. I had 60-odd of them grouped under a tree a few metres away from the gate I wanted them to go through.

I moved around as usual on the bike, beeping the horn, trying to encourage them to move off. They just kept looking at me and milling around.

Chris came up a few minutes later on the bike. They responded immediately and took off through the gate … before he had even come right up on them!

What is that? Man-power or some sort of special Cow-power? I don’t know, but I wish I had it.

It actually fascinates me. Is it his expectation that they will move when he arrives? Is it his belief in himself as a competent musterer? How does all that work?

I don’t know, but I wish someone would tell me how I could get it … well I have a bit, but I want more.