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{Liberating Structure in Development} Feedback on this LS

Positive Gossip (v1.4)

Start Turning Around a Destructive Pattern of Negative Gossip

What is made possible? Creating a climate of appreciative personal feedback can dramatically boost performance for individuals and groups. It is possible to begin turning a vicious self-reinforcing cycle of negative gossip – that stifles risk-taking and innovation – into a virtuous self-reinforcing cycle of positive feedback. Positive Gossip is an antidote a strongly felt discontent and indifference that spreads informally from person to person (a form of acute proliferative dysphoria). A generalized malaise in which “things will not get better, only worse.” A robust pattern of positive feedback and can eliminate the need for extrinsic rewards and costly incentive programs (e.g., free coffee coupons, stickers, awards ceremonies).

Structural Elements – Min Specs

Structuring Invitation

  • You are asked to share something positive or “positive gossip” about the behavior or contributions of other people in your life and working group

How Space Is Arranged & Materials Needed

  • Unlimited # people, face-to-face in pairs

How Participation Is Distributed

  • Everyone has an equal opportunity to contribute

How Groups Are Configured

  • In pairs, then a debrief in a group of four

Sequence of Steps and Time Allocation

1.   [1] Find one other person and stand directly across from them, face to face

2.   [2] Invite each person to share something positive about any other person in the group based on their recent behavior or contributions (1 minute for each person)

3.   [2] Find another person to stand directly across from and share positive gossip about a person that has guided or supported you (personally or professionally)

4.   [2] Go find another person to talk with and stand directly across from them… don’t reveal this following question until the new pairs have formed.

5.   [2] Share something positive about the behavior or contribution of your partner (the person in front of you). Either person in the pair can go first.

6.   [5] Ask, in groups of four,

  • What? What happened? What did you notice?
  • So What? Does what happened make a difference?
  • Now What? Based on what happened and the difference it makes, what action makes sense for you now?

WHY? Purposes

  • Start turning around a destructive pattern of negative gossip
  • Learn, practice and have fun with a more positive behavior
  • Work toward a daily practice or habit that can help eliminate the need for reward and recognition programs
  • Start shifting a climate of generalized malaise toward a culture of “things may get better around here”

Tips and Traps

  • Keep the direct exchange question # 5 “secret” until the pair has formed
  • Maintain the short time frames – 1 minute for each person in the pair
  • Make the switch between sharing and listening clear with a bell
  • You can do multiple rounds depending on group size and the need to practice this new behavior
  • Make it a routine exercise in your group until a new pattern takes hold

Riff and Variations

  • Invite gossip about different people who often only are the target of negative gossip
  • Encourage exaggeration and embroidering (mimicking the patterns of negative gossip)
  • Switch the order of questions 1 and 2


  • Part of the closing of any meeting with 10 or more people present
  • Part of a celebration or launch of a new activity

Collateral Materials

Attribution: Adapted from the Stozzi Institute by Keith McCandless with Neil McCarthy and Tracy Rekart