Realizing You're Just Like Everyone Else

Just like her
Originally uploaded by claireantonia.
I'm guilty of some feelings of superiority. I glare at people who stroll in front of me at an art museum, ignorantly blocking the painting I was considering. At the mall, the slow-minded and slow-walking people who take up the whole thoroughfare and practically walk right into you because they can't grasp the concept of "sharing the road" irritate me. Idiots. I'm so much better than them.
But am I? After reading a bit of my latest book (The Happiness Hypothesis by Jonathan Haidt), and then watching my own behavior for a day, I wasn't so sure.
In a study written up in this book, an investigator asked over 50 people to take notes on any conversation they had that lasted over 10 minutes for one week. The topic of study was gossip, and not surprisingly the recorded conversations were indeed often about other people. What might be disheartening is that the conversations were often "overwhelmingly critical" of other people and dwelt on their "moral and social violations". Backstabbing and critical gossiping was ten times more common than conversations praising others.
After listening to myself all day today, I realized I do it too. Speculation about why my boss suddenly left the company, thoughts on how a coworker is handling a certain project. Even a conversation about men and their definition of when the trash can is full and how frequently the trash should be taken to the dumpster... Jason the unfortunate victim of that banter. It was like I couldn't stop.
The conclusion was that when people pass along juicy gossip they get a power rush. And no matter how negatively we may judge other people who gossip, we do it all the time ourselves. Me too.
I was really pretty disappointed in myself. Even if no one wants to hear it, I think I'll have to try to say some more nice things about my friends and coworkers. In sharing this thought with my hairdresser tonight, she agreed. "People will tell one friend about a good haircut, but 10 friends about a bad one."
So for starters, I had a very good haircut tonight. I have a very talented and amiable hairdresser, who always compliments me. She is great.


Rick said...

We always thought you were kinda' gossipy...we talk about it sometimes.

Andra Sue said...

Thanks for the reminder. Gossiping is something we're all guilty of and definitely a behavior that could stand to be changed for the better. :)

You put my post on grilled cheese sandwiches to shame!


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