Reflections about Research and Gossip

Carol A. Hand

Standing in the shower, eyes closed
Rinsing off soap and shampoo
Thinking about gossip gathered in research
And wondering what to do

What roles do tales told about others
Play in preserving the social order
My thoughts taking me to other times
Momentarily dissolving time’s border


Image: Microsoft Word Clipart

What value do such utterings carry
What heuristic goals are served
By repeating words that disparage others
Even when critiques appear to be deserved

Spreading gossip says much about the teller
So I’ll make the choice that’s best
Leaving hurtful words buried in old research notes
Until consigned to flames, their final prayerful rest


Image: Microsoft Word Clipart

Copyright Notice: © Carol A. Hand and carolahand, 2013-2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Carol A. Hand and carolahand with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

26 thoughts on “Reflections about Research and Gossip

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  1. This is a very interesting topic. Worthy of an essay, I think, and you could discuss it without naming people and without identifying information. Maybe as we avoid spreading disparaging words we also miss discussing the context and the power structure and dynamics of gossip. What you say about gossip’s role in preserving the social order–what sorts of gossipy criticism comes out tells a lot about the group and its stresses. You obviously have powerful examples to share.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Great comments, Diane. Interestingly, after writing and posting this reflection, I felt the need to briefly contextualize the gossip that inspired these reflections without repeating details in the most recent chapter. The “divide and conquer” political and cultural dynamics involved raised serious concerns for me.

      As always, I appreciate your feedback and thoughtful suggestions. I will probably return to your idea later today when I’ve finished working on this chapter 🙂


  2. Your words convict, but in a positive way, Carol! Your children and grandchildren are blessed to have such a wise, loving person to love and learn from!

    Many times, I am not even aware this is what I am doing.

    And I have even suffered the ill effects of other’s gossip, whether based on truth or not, so I am not very fond of myself when I find that I am taking part in this kind of destructive and worthless communication.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I suspect we all do this to some degree, Sojourner, especially when we feel insecure and believe it will do little harm to others. In this situation, the potential harm was already done and was unfixable. I won’t repeat the gossip, but writing this helped me think about how to address the hegemony it perhaps perpetuated.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. This is difficult for some but Tubularsock believes that you say what you have to say, the way you have to say it and let the chips fall where they may. Life is a reflection in which you see yourself.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Purveying gossip is a very tempting pastime. And the purveyor learns the hard way that no sooner the indulgence starts, the faster the process starts to wreak its demeaning influence on the perpetrator. Unlike the salutary effects of benevolent giving, doling out gossip steadily weakens and degrades all parties involved. Season’s greetings to you, Carol…

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you for sharing thoughtful perspectives on the harm gossip metes on everyone, Raj. It is also a powerful way to enforce conformity – ensuring both social order/continuity and stifling creativity. Like all social behaviors – both good and bad?


  5. True, and yet I wonder: how do we preserve history and all its truths, however terrible. But then, as you point out there are terrible truths, and then there are terrible un-truths. Those, yes: please, destroy. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for your important insights, Jean. I wrote this after days of reading my research notes. During my research study, I wrote down everything people said in interviews, including petty comments they made about their colleagues or community members. (One never knows at the time what will prove important later.) Repeating these tales – petty and rather mean-spirited gossip in my view – would only detract from larger issues. One of these issues was the divisive, competitive nature of the tribal community, and hence, the ability of the county or state to play community people against each other in order to tighten external controls. I’m not sure if this makes sense out of context. In those few cases where the gossip was accurate, and the “fatal flaws” serious in terms of consequences, they are demonstrated by describing actions rather than gossipy innuendo. My hope was to allow readers to reach their own conclusions. I’ve yet to revisit these chapters to edit, and that will be a while. I have a syllabus to finish and then follow. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Ah, those pesky syllabi. 🙂 But yes, I do understand what you mean. So often the gossip we hear, even if true, will show itself in the petty actions of those whom the gossip depicts. And, as we so often teach to our students, if this information is not directly relevant to your purpose, then it’s just gotta go. 🙂 Thank you for sharing this!

        Liked by 1 person

        1. I’m actually excited to see how the new assignments work in real life, but spelling out specific details in a logical, understandable fashion is always a challenge for me. But it’s beginning to feel doable. 🙂

          Liked by 1 person

        2. LOL! Yes, the trial and error of assignment and lectures from term to term. What I love is *just* when you think you’ve found the groove, a committee of some sort implements new course learning assessments or objectives that throw everything askew. Good luck!

          Liked by 1 person

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