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Is Gossip Hazardous to Your Health?

Speculating and whispering about other people’s business is a time-honored (see: Ten Commandments), if tawdry, tradition, and gossip is also fueling quite a large international industry these days, in case you hadn’t noticed. But can its effects be deadly? A couple people quoted in this Wall Street Journal hearsay exposé seem to think it’s dangerous. But what’s to be done? –KA

The Wall Street Journal via Gawker:

In Hartford, Conn., Trinity College recently held an event at which students and faculty discussed derogatory language and the power behind the kind/true/necessary mantra. In Chicago, Empower Public Relations issued a company-wide ban on gossip, firing three employees who violated the policy in 2007. In Boulder, Colo., Samuel Avital, a well-known mime artist who studied with Marcel Marceau, incorporates into his performances and teachings the idea that every word we utter should pass through “three gates,” each with a gatekeeper asking … well, you know the three questions.

“It’s an outgrowth of the golden rule,” says Elizabeth Ketcham, a Unitarian Universalist minister on Whidbey Island, Wash. She is saddened by gossip that spread across the island recently damaging the reputation of a former parishioner. In an upcoming sermon, she plans to talk to her congregation about the concept of kind/true/necessary. “And I’m going to admit that I have not always abided by those words,” she says.

Though it is gaining traction, this antigossip push can sound quaint, especially in a nation that nonchalantly lost millions of hours in productivity last month chattering about Tiger Woods. But kind/true/necessary proponents say that the very pervasiveness of trash talk makes it even more imperative that we deal with the issue.

“Gossip is high stakes in the Internet age,” says Sam Chapman, the CEO of Empower, the public-relations agency that banned gossip. “It’s emotionally lethal. It’s leading to suicides.”

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