Mrs. Samar GhanemThursday, 25, April 24, 2019
One of the most important human evolutionary behaviors is reputation. Reputation building almost exclusively depends on the individual behavior of the party concerned in addition to factors which require other individuals intervention. Such intervention might include what we call gossip and scandals which directly affect the individuals reputation both positively and negatively. Gossip is an important societal and cultural phenomenon (Gluckman, 1963, 307). Further more gossip is a form of talk which conveys power and energy to shape a certain mindset towards another. So, in this paper I will be targeting two main topics to discuss this phenomenon. The first would be about gossip and its effects on social behavior while the other about words and the power conveyed in it. I will also be relying on two articles to analyze for this paper, the first being Gossip and Scandals by Max Gluckman while the other being The Power of Talk by Deborah Tannen.
Before we start our topic about Gossip and as previously mentioned, gossip and scandals are important societal and cultural phenomena. We may ask ourselves why has it developed that far? Well its because the freedom of expression gives every individual the right to indulge in slander and gossip (Gluckman, 1963, 308). Furthermore, popular attitudes and points of views influence gossip, for example people of lower status are less likely to initiate gossiping for their fear of being contradicted by higher status individuals (Eder & Enke, 1991). Also, scandals and gossip grow and prosper among those who show passion and relish the gossip presented. For example, in the primitive societies, scandals and gossip were used in songs and poetry. Presented mainly by old people according to Gluckman. Such groups of old people were against progressive development and thats why they try to spread news in all its forms to try and hinder this development (Gluckman, 1963, 308).
Then Gluckman shifts in his article to discuss religion and gossip. He claims that religion operates on gossip and fear of it. He says: thats how churches and religion set their moral conduct” (Gluckman, 1963, 308). Meaning they control through gossip and gossiping play a pivotal role in the community life. Moreover, we see people gossiping to interrelate their characters in a social intercourse, especially in small groups (Gluckman, 1963, 309). We can thus say that gossip is used as a weapon by those on a higher status to place them on top and place those with a lower status in the bottom in their proper place (Gluckman, 1963, 309). We can relate this to the other article The Power of Talk which well be referring to later in this paper. Gluckman then claims that the more exclusive group the group is the greater the gossip. Furthermore, it plays an important role in putting newcomers into their proper place and not as close to one another as the other group members because they do not know much exclusive gossip.
Gluckman then moves to talk about three different groups of gossiping. The first being the professional groups which share the technical gossip and thus it becomes a tight technical group seen in a group of lawyers or doctors, for example. The second group being the high social status groups which wish to exclude parvenus (Gluckman, 1963, 309). Here the gossip is hereditary and to be at a good position in this group you have to know gossip about all generations such as present and past group members not present group members only. The third are the exclusive groups which are small in number of individuals and are against the others or the else as Gluckman presented. Here Gluckman gave the example of the Makah (Red Indians) being an exclusive group sharing their morals and values amongst their small group and preserving it due to gossip. This society was completely based on hierarchy and differences in classes unlike the modern Makah which are no longer an exclusive group. We can see how gossip had a huge impact on the lives of many. Thus here we can relate this to the power of talk and words.
According to Tannen, sociolinguistics and self-confidence play a key role in grabbing the audiences attention. She conveys this message by starting with an example of the CEO whose decision of approving a proposal is dependent on the tone and confidence presented by the presenter (Tannen, 1995, 139). She was clearly against it as she claimed that communication differs among people of different ethnic and cultural backgrounds and also among genders. She hints at this being a misconception or a difference in tone style that leads to judgmental behavior. Tannen then discusses how both tone and language style used can code for different attitudes and objectives. Here she talks how the upbringing of girls and boys reflect on their tone and linguistic style which then affects them on a professional level later on. She claims that girls avoid sounding too confident to avoid being called bossy and judged. On the other hand, boys act in such a way in their groups where you see some boys are leaders while the others are followers in that certain group. In other words, boys and girls grow up in different environments (Tannen, 1995, 141). Since childhood boys and girls are used to play in different environment that affect their behavior in their society. Also it reflects on women by being weak and undervalued at work just because men speak with more confidence and at greater lengths. Girls when studying are used to put low expectations and be less confident than men who are always forming high expectations and always being more confident. Even when it comes to receiving credit, men use I’ while women use we’. That is why she claimed: women are at a disadvantage when it comes to verbal behavior (Tannen, 1995, 142).
Additionally Tannen moves in this article to discuss the topic of questions those who form negative opinions of others asking questions avoid asking questions themselves. In men point of view, asking questions reflects them as being ignorant so they become judgmental and try to avoid it. In addition, when it comes to apologies, Im sorry” can be used in many different contexts and not only intending to apologize. It can also be used by women more than men as a sign of politeness and also according to differences in ethnic backgrounds (Tannen, 1995, 143). When it comes to giving compliments, it is more of womens style rather than mens. Women tend to wait for compliments and expect them, whereas we see men more likely to criticize something rather than compliment it when asked for their opinion regarding that matter (Tannen, 1995, 144). Additionally, men are more likely to talk about their achievements more than women because during their childhood they tend to act in a bossy way through which they tend to show their power through it. Even in professional level, men tend to portray the best image in front of their bosses so that they would achieve better positions.
Finally regarding indirectness, it is considered one of the most linguistic styles used for it gives the opportunity to deliver information without mentioning it out clearly (Tannen, 1995, 146). Tannen said it is a fundamental element in human communication. Nonetheless, it can be completely misunderstood as it varies from one cultural background to another. It can be used by both men and women. Men use it when they are at a relatively lower position and are speaking to others of relatively higher positions not to seem bossed around. Women use it out of the fear of being judged and labelled as bossy especially when it comes to telling others what to do and why to do this thing. We can also see those in a superior position being indirect when they lack confidence whereby they become more direct when they are fully confident.
In conclusion, we can see that both confidence and gossip play an important role in shaping individuals social behavior. Regarding these articles we can see that Tannen’s article had a better structural outline presenting her ideas and giving convenient examples about the importance or power of talk in which it builds peoples attitude and forming confident shedding the light on different genders, whereas Gluckman gave too much information on a relatively out of context example where he couldve focused more on the theoretical part of his article about gossiping and who focus on gossiping in his life, in what ways and even he talked about why they would gossip.
Eder, D. & Enke, J. L. (1991). The structure of gossip: Opportunities and constraints on collective expression among adolescents. American Sociological Review, 56, 494508. DOI: 10.2307/2096270
Tannen, Deborah. “The Power of Talk: Who Gets Heard and Why.” Harvard Business Review, September/October 1995, 137-48.
Gluckman, Max. “Gossip and Scandal.” Current Anthropology4, no. 3 (June 1963): 307-16. Accessed October 10, 2016.