We all like gossip
I read an article recently that suggested that everyone — men and women — like a bit of gossip, the generally harmless chat that happens when people gather together and have a few minutes to spare. They might share a moan about everything and anything but they also talk about the good stuff and share non-essential but welcome information about what they did at the weekend, what’s happening with the kids, the cats or the latest movie.
We seem to enjoy gossip as long as it’s not too much, or too little… we don’t like it when people don’t gossip. You know the situation when someone is sitting in on your every-day conversation but isn’t contributing, you may feel a bit uncomfortable. You may begin to mistrust them… after all, gossiping is pretty relaxed and unguarded.
The need for information
All this got me thinking about how people feel about information and how they react when they don’t get information which they think they need. After observing this for some time I came to the conclusion that when we don’t get information which we think is relevant to us it creates a vacuum… a vacuum that sucks in nothing but negativity.
The information vacuum in action
In the airport when the screen says ‘flight delayed’ we only last a few minutes before we start thinking negative thoughts. If, after ten minutes, the screen is still giving nothing away, we’re not just thinking bad things, we start telling other people just how incompetent this airline really is. However, when a member of the airline staff comes out and tells us they apologise for the delay which is ‘due to operational reasons and as soon as they have more information they’ll let us know’ we feel much better about them and our negativity disappears. Even though they haven’t told us anything definite, the information vacuum has been, at least temporarily, switched off.
In a team, openness between team members is essential to avoid creating an information vacuum, and the negativity it attracts, causing damage to relationships and affecting the team’s wellbeing and productivity.
Just keep talking
I’m not talking about telling everybody everything — that would be indiscreet. But it’s not for us to judge whether the other person will be interested or not, if they don’t think the information is interesting or relevant they’ll ignore it. After all, when we gossip we don’t think about whether the other person needs or wants that information, we just talk, openly and unguardedly about, well, stuff. It keeps the communications channels open and prevents the negative thoughts and potentially damaging rumours that will always occur when we don’t keep people informed and we unwittingly create an information vacuum. And it’s not only teams and organisations — keeping the communication channels open is vital in any relationship if it’s going to stay healthy and positive.
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