The Fine Art of Gossip

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Gossiping requires balance. We don't trust the tight-lipped, nor do we confide in blabbermouths. We resent drama queens, but we ignore wallflowers. It is a sin to distort the truth, but it is also a sin to be boring. "If you're at a party, and you say to somebody, 'Isn't it hot outside?' then how interesting are you?" says gossip columnist Liz Smith. "But if you say, 'Sit down, I'm going to tell you a story that'll knock your socks off,' they'll never forget you." Here's how to make gossip your ally:

  • Keep Secrets: Although it seems counterintuitive, good gossips are extremely adept at keeping some information in confidence. Nothing will get you ejected from a social network faster than the knowledge that you're the community Deep Throat.
  • Know Your Audience: In general, people are most interested in their peers: people of their own age and gender. Men like to hear about money; women like to hear about everything else.
  • Embellish: "People are more compelled by story than by truth," says Hollywood publicist Michael Levine. Although outright lying will get you in trouble, colorful storytelling is almost always preferred to drab reality.
  • Never Reveal Your Sources: Artful gossips know how to keep the original source of their dish hidden. This is especially true when they are the original source.
  • Don't Rebuff a Disclosure: Resist telling someone to shut up, even if their gossip makes you uncomfortable. Smile, tell a joke and redirect the conversation. "Return their overtures in spirit, but not in content," says psychologist Sara Wert.

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