Hitting brakes on gossip

Akash Nair M S
3 min readMay 30, 2020


Chinese whispers or Telephone is a simple game of passing a message. People usually stand in a line and the person in the front whispers a message to the second person, which is repeated to the third, and so on. A round is complete when the message has reached the last person.

For entertainment, the message gets deliberately modified during the transfer. By the time it reaches the final participant, the message would be corrupt.

There are no winners in the game, and it is usually played to teach children how easily information gets modified as it passes through multiple people. It is the perfect game to demonstrate the spread of gossip.

Ray Dalio is a billionaire Hedge fund manager and founder of the world’s largest Hedge fund- Bridgewater Associates. He released a book in 2017 by the title “Principles: Work & Life”. In this exhaustive book, Dalio outlines the principles and systems he follows both in his personal and professional life. A common thread in all of the concepts is radical transparency.

One of the primary reasons why Bridgewater maintains its edge in the market is because of the culture Dalio has deliberately spread throughout the organization.

Every point in his book is worth discussing, but my favorite is Principle #11:

“Never say anything about a person you wouldn’t say to them directly. If you do, you are a slimy weasel.”

This is followed by another point of accusing people to their faces, rather than talking behind their backs. Dalio feels you should talk smack about someone, provided they are present to clarify and defend.

I have prided myself on the fact of not deliberately spreading gossip, but there have been plenty of instances where I spoke about another person in their absence. It is highly possible that I may have conveyed inaccurate information.

There is always a huge gap between our perception and reality. Primarily because we tend to add our own imaginations and judgments to whatever we gather. This is usually repackaged with our own flavor. When we talk ill about others, especially in their absence, it is nothing but an indicator of our own weaknesses and insecurities.

If you have formed a negative impression about someone, rather than talking about it to a third person, it can probably be resolved by taking it up with them personally. It may look like this kind of radical honesty can backfire, and it is easier to do it in an environment like what Dalio created at Bridgewater.

But, there can always be a workaround, and it is highly possible that our fears of it backfiring may also be part of our vivid imagination that created a negative impression of the person in the first place.

This is not just a lesson for curbing gossip, but it has an extended impact on helping people build integrity and transparency- which is uncommon nowadays.

Recently, a friend introduced me to the slang: spill the tea. The tea basically stands for gossip. I tried researching it online, and the usage originated from the drag culture. It later found prominence in pop culture shows and events.

When you are spilling the tea, it is basically spreading gossip that is juicy and piping hot in nature. It is worthwhile to remember: juices come with additives and piping hot beverages cause “burns”.

Thank you for reading!