Faith CoLab: Tapestry of Faith: Virtue Ethics: An Ethical Development Program for High School Youth

Activity 4: Gossip Game

Part of Virtue Ethics

Activity time: 15 minutes

Materials for Activity

  • Blank paper and writing instruments
  • Optional: A copy of the Unitarian Universalist Principles

Preparation for Activity

  • Optional: Write a few complicated sentences on slips of paper.

Description of Activity

Youth discuss the damage gossip can do.

Say to the group that though Sita's story does not explicitly say the people of Ayodhaya gossiped about Sita, we can imagine that they did. Ask for a definition of gossip. Affirm, or offer: Gossip is the unnecessary sharing of potential harmful or hurtful information. Ask if anyone has played the game, Gossip. Invite them to play now.

Have everyone form a circle. Ask a volunteer to write a sentence on a strip of paper. The more difficult the sentence, the more fun the game. Or, start the game with a sentence you have prepared.

The writer gives the written sentence to someone on their right or left. That person reads it quickly, then hands the paper back to the writer and whispers the sentence to the person next to them. The group passes the sentence along, with the writer hearing it last. Compare the final version with the written sentence.

Play as long as time allows, leaving time for discussion using these questions:

  • What does this game help us understand about gossip?
  • What does gossip have to do with integrity, honesty, and trust? If you believe what you are saying is true, is gossip wrong? What if you did not intend harm? If your friend posts on Facebook that they are breaking up with their partner, is it gossip if you tell your friends who are not on Facebook? What if you speculate to others about why they are breaking up, or talk about overhearing them argue? What if they do not break up, after all?
  • How do you know if what you are thinking of sharing is gossip or not? Is there a test? One suggestion might be to ask the person you are talking about if they are comfortable with your sharing. Another might be to ask yourself: "If this was said about me, how would I feel?"
  • Have you ever been hurt by gossip? Have you ever hurt others, whether intentional or not, by passing on unnecessary information?
  • How does gossip relate to our UU Principles?
  • Author Bob Burg on his website advocates for a Reverse Gossip game. In this game, instead of sharing negative comments, you repeat only positive things about people. For example, if someone says, "Alex and Robin never hang out with us after school. They must think they are too good to be with us," you can respond with "People have different levels of comfort when it comes to socializing, but Alex and Robin have always been good friends to me and there when I need them."

Including All Participants

If any participants have hearing difficulties, skip this activity, as it relies on youth mishearing what others whisper.