Talking About Other People

Men talking to each other. Could they be gossiping?
Eric Parker, via Flickr

Joshua Leo and Christy VanArragon look at why people like to gossip and how people can stop gossip.

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Voice 1 

Welcome to Spotlight. I’m Joshua Leo.

Voice 2 

And I’m Christy VanArragon. Spotlight uses a special English method of broadcasting. It is easier for people to understand, no matter where in the world they live.

Voice 1 

In 2005, the government of a small town in Colombia made an unusual law. They began giving punishments for gossip - including fines and prison sentences.

Voice 2 

Gossip is common everywhere in the world. Most people love to share private information about other people. But gossip can cause serious damage. Today’s Spotlight is on gossip.

Voice 1 

So why did the government of Icononzo make a law against gossip? They were hoping to fight a very serious problem. In this area, there is a long conflict between the government and the rebel group FARC. For many years, FARC has hoped to change the government by attacking normal people. They kidnap people from throughout the country. Sometimes they ask for money. Sometimes they make demands of the government.

Voice 2 

This conflict causes fear and anxiety among normal people. In the town of Icononzo, it also caused gossip. Gossip about the conflict was causing even more problems for normal people. Ignacio Jimenez was the town leader. He described the problem to the BBC. Some gossip says that particular people support the FARC. Other gossip may say that a person has been giving information to the government. This gossip may be complete lies. But these lies have serious effects on people’s lives. People avoid their normal activities. Because of gossip, the government may even arrest innocent people. Or the FARC may attack and kill citizens. Mr Jimenez said,

Voice 3 

‘It is a tradition for gossip to spread through small towns. It is a part of life. But it is worrying that people are going to prison or being murdered because of gossip’.

 Voice 1  

For that reason Mr. Jimenez has established punishments for people guilty of gossip. He has established fines and prison sentences. People found guilty of gossiping could go to prison for four years. Mr Jimenez said that the people of Icononzo will have to think more before accusing other people of anything! Hopefully they will see that there is no such thing as an innocent piece of gossip.

 Voice 2  

For most people, gossip does not threaten their lives.  But it can still cause a lot of hurt. So why do people share gossip? Why is gossip so common?

Voice 1 

There is an English expression, “There is nothing like a juicy bit of gossip!” People love to pass secret information to each other - about other people’s lives. The information they spread is called a ‘rumour.’ A rumour may have a base of truth. But often it does not. Rumours can be complete lies. But this does not matter to the people who gossip!

Voice 2 

Doctor Ann McGee Cooper is a writer and business advisor. She helps people find creative solutions to problems - such as gossiping at work. In her work, she describes some of the reasons people like to gossip.

Voice 1 

First, gossip is about other people’s lives - not our own. This can make the gossipers feel safe. Gossip does not seem to affect us.

Voice 2 

Second, sharing secret stories is a way of connecting to people. When people share gossip, they feel closer. As the gossip spreads, new people may add extra information. This makes them feel even closer. They feel important, because they know a secret. It becomes like an unspoken agreement, “We are so good, and they are so bad!”

Voice 1 

While sharing gossip, people may feel safe. But after sharing the gossip, a person may feel worried. The closeness is gone. So a person will look for more gossip to spread. They will try to share the gossip with other people. And so the rumours grow and grow. People usually do not stop to find out if the information is true or not.

Voice 2 

This brings us to the third reason. People who are listening to gossip feel included. Dr. McGee says that this is a feeling everyone wants! No one wants to be the last to know a particular piece of information. Information is power. And we all like to have a piece of this power. It is not difficult to excuse gossip, even when you know it is wrong. At first, it may even seem like the information is something important - something we need to know.

Voice 1 

But what about the person who the gossip is about? No one wants people to spread gossip about them. And it is very difficult to stop a rumour.  Maybe you have been the target of gossip. Maybe you have heard that a particular person is saying bad things about you. There are some things you can do. Dr McGee also has some good suggestions for this situation.

Voice 2 

First, find out if the person has been talking about you or not. Be careful not to report information as a fact. For example, you could talk to the person sharing the rumour. You could say,

Voice 4

‘I heard a false rumour about me yesterday! Have you heard this story? Please help me to understand why people are saying these things about me.’

Voice 2 

Dealing with issues respectfully and openly can often solve them faster.

Voice 1 

When you hear gossip, question the person who shared it with you - in a respectful way. For example, you could say,

Voice 4

‘That does not sound like something Angela would say. Before we accept this as true, can we ask Angela? I want to understand exactly what she meant.’

Voice 1 

This makes others see that we do not want to be a part of gossip. And it helps them to find out the truth.

Voice 2 

Ending gossip may be difficult. But it is important to stop it. Even a small piece of gossip can have big effects. Gossip has been a problem for thousands of years. There is even a letter in the Christian Bible that warns about gossiping! The writer tells his friends to be careful:

Voice 3

‘The tongue is a very small part of the body... Think about how one very small fire can create a big forest fire.’

Voice 1 

Through carelessness, one small fire can destroy a whole forest. In the same way, careless talk can destroy a person’s name and character. If you are tempted to share gossip, stop and think. By ending the gossip, you may be preventing hurt and broken relationships.

Voice 2 

The writer of this program was Marina Santee. The producer was Michio Ozaki. The voices you heard were from the United States. All quotes were adapted for this program and voiced by Spotlight. You can listen to this program again, and read it, on the internet at This program is called, ‘Talking About Other People’.

Voice 1 

We hope you can join us again for the next Spotlight program. Goodbye.

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How can a person stop gossip?


Kris_IV's avatar
said on November 03, 2011

Is one Polish film: “Galerianki” (English title “Mall Girl”). In this film young man commit suicide after gossip… This movie is very realistic and give many for thinking…

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said on December 18, 2012

Hello!, I can’t stand the tv shows of gossip. How ugly is many people love them!

Luis Piedra's avatar
Luis Piedra
said on December 20, 2012

I think that gossip is very dangerous for the people.

Long Pham's avatar
Long Pham
said on January 14, 2013

I think gossip affect to our life. The information of gossip usually is not true, that’s only a romour, it can cause harmful to our economic. So we need prevent it speads our community.

Thanks a lot.

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said on February 17, 2015

Hello Friends.
I like this program. Gossip is a social dissease.


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said on February 20, 2015

Unfortunately, gossiping is more and more widespread among the people nowadays. Some people enjoy sharing private information about others regardless of its truth or falsity. However, a person becoming a target of gossip may be harmed seriously in many respects. I suppose ending gossip seems to be difficult, almost impossible because people seldom want to change their bad behaviour. In my opinion, we should simply ignore the rumour just as in particular, nor participate in its spreading in any case!
Thanks for excellent topic!

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said on March 14, 2015

GOD bless everyone. Very interesting when I listened and read this topic. Sometimes, gossip look like a fault of people. Sometimes they can thinking and talking something that is not true.

I don’t remember axactly this sentence from where: “Please tell me about your friend, I will know who you are!”

In my group, we have been keeping a rule: nobody absent when you get party. Why we do that? Because we want everybody in a group closer than and never got a wrong think or misunderstand.

Thanks Spotlight so much.


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said on May 23, 2016

It can’t stop by others….it can only stop by themselves…

Kaleb Kolaibi's avatar
Kaleb Kolaibi
said on May 24, 2016

I think that we can stop gossip if we committe by the ten commandments in the Holy Bible, especialy “not lie”, because gossip is lying when person who say gossip without he/she know if that true or false.

Severino Ramos da Silva's avatar
Severino Ramos da Silva
said on May 24, 2016

From: .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) (Severino Ramos)
To: spotlight programme
Subject: answer to the question above
Date: Tuesday 24, May 2016
São Paulo SP Brazil

Dear Christy VanArragon, Marina Santee, Joshua Leo, and Michio Ozaki:

First of all, I want to thank you to bring us readers and learners of English more one great article. Thanks!

I think a person who like to gossip about private life has a bad behaviour. So, this person will never stop to gossip unless, this person receives a punishment.

Yours regards,
Severino Ramos

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said on May 24, 2016

I think that “gossip” is in human nature, the best way to fight it is to get over it even if sometime that can be difficult… In a group of people there always or often some people who tell bad things, but the reverse is also true : there is always or often some people who defend the others !
But it is true that sometimes that can have dramatical consequences…

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said on May 26, 2016

‘‘Nobody is perfect’‘. We learn and train. We try much to get better every day. We are responsible to the life and everyone. We wish beautiful good things. We do not wish not good things. We do beautiful good things for the life and everyone. We keep away from not good things. We try much to get better every day. We are responsible to the life and everyone. We make the life better and more beautiful. Our workings are good and beautiful.

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Duong Minh Vuong
said on May 31, 2016

“There is nothing like a juicy bit of gossip!”, but i don’t really like gossip. That’s the reason why i usually keep silent and “a friendly smile” if unfortunately have to contact with the group of gossipers spreading rumour.

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said on February 21, 2019

I hate gossip! In my professional career I was a boss of different people: soldiers, computer technicians, teachers ... Soldiers rarely talk about their comrades, and computer technicians as well. But teachers ... They like gossip a lot, and I get angry when someone approaches me and starts an account of another teacher. Sometimes I expressed my disagreement with harsh words.