Dear Dale is a Fea­tures advice column.

Dear Dale

 I have a huge problem with talking about people behind their backs around campus. I’m not trying to spread rumors, but I get really excited about spilling tea to friends and it quickly spreads. Why is it so hard to keep my mouth shut?

-Gos­siping Gabby


Living on a small campus means two things: everyone knows everyone and every­thing. If you only tell five people and each of them tells five people … well, you get the idea. Moreover, with social media and anonymous chatting apps, rumors can spread very quickly.

You’re not alone in your excitement to spill the tea. Recent studies show that the average person spends about 52 minutes a day gos­siping. Psy­chol­o­gists suggest that humans have been wired to gossip for sur­vival since pre­his­toric times – it’s the way we strengthen social bonds, determine who is trust­worthy, and learn news. But our genetic wiring doesn’t excuse putting others down.

Try swapping neg­ative thoughts for pos­itive ones; for every person you want to gossip about, think of one good quality they have. Assume that whoever you are talking about could likely find out what you said about them due to our small campus. Unless it’s some­thing you’d be okay with them hearing, con­sider not saying it at all. Tell your friends about your goal to stop gos­siping so they can help you. On the other hand, don’t bottle things up. If you need to get some­thing out of your system, try calling a trusted sibling, parent, or mentor back home since they don’t have a con­nection to the involved parties.

Finally, remember how gossip about others impacts you. Ask yourself if you really feel better after trashing people or if it just leaves you feeling unful­filled. Gos­siping may provide short term joy but often is draining in the long run. Remember how it will affect your social life. The friends you gossip to are likely con­cerned that you’re gos­siping about them behind their backs. If they view you as untrust­worthy, you’ll no longer have friends to gossip to, so that’s one way to solve your problem.