Let's face it: everyone has talked about a friend with another friend at least once. Even the closest, most sacred of BFFs can do something that profoundly bugs you to the point venting about it with someone who also knows and understands them. But sh*t-talking your friend can still make you feel icky (even though, again, this is totally normal and we all do it). Here, Dr. Goali Saedi explains why gossiping can actually be good for you.
It can help you let off steam (in small doses)."There is absolutely a stress-relieving element every time we share woes with a trusted individual—the key is trusted," says Dr. Saedi. "If two individuals are in a secure friendship, talking freely is highly therapeutic and addressing the elephant in the room is very important."
Obviously, if you only gossip about the same friend and pile on new, awful things they did (with no plan to address it), you'll only feel more and more frustrated. So try to keep constructive. "It is definitely much more beneficial to process a tough experience with a friend in order to come up with solutions rather than to just bash [your other friend]," suggests Dr. Saedi.
It can help you spot bigger red flags in a friendship.Sometimes, having a weird vibe about a friend and talking it through with a fellow squad member can lead to more important revelations (for instance, finding out that the person has spread harmful rumors about you). "Prosocial gossip is the type that helps convey information and help us grow, be safe, and know about what's going on in our environment," says Dr. Saedi.
In a 2012 study, participants who cared the most about someone being untrustworthy were actually the most likely to talk behind other peoples' backs, but for a good reason: to warn their group about potential toxic friends. Discussing behavior that legitimately hurts you or another friend can drive you to confront the problem head-on.
It can make your annoying friend a better person.According to a 2014 study, people who were gossiped about ended up improving their selfish or deceptive behavior so that they could feel accepted and liked by the group again. AKA, you shit-talking your friend who always flakes on plans may ultimately be good for her (if she catches on to why you're actually mad). "The friend may have been oblivious all along to their actions," says Dr. Saedi. "You want to be respectful and never blindside them [with a big intervention]."
It teaches *you* what not to do."What irritates us about other people can be informative about our own actions—whether we decide to continue pursuing a relationship with that person or [not]," says Dr. Saedi. For example, a 2017 study also shows that participants who spotted bad behavior in a video became more aware of campus norms after gossiping about said bad behavior. Dissecting why some subtle actions are inconsiderate or upsetting helps us all grow as people.
Ideally, you want to be able to listen to your friend vent about how your other friend always talks over them, while working on your own interrupt-y habits. Shit-talking, at its best, makes us all a little less shitty.
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This article originally appeared on Cosmopolitan.com. Minor edits have been made by the Cosmo.ph editors.