Call it Chinese whispers, the bush telegraph, or Mrs Hodges grapevine; gossip and rumour are an essential part of any social network or community.

Have you noticed though, the ‘news’ that gets conveyed this way is seldom upbeat and positive. This is a shame, because the benefits of spreading gratuitously false yet benevolent information can be far reaching. Try it, and you’ll see.

This doesn’t mean lying. All good rumour is based on a mix of possibility and opportunity, so positive rumour (shall we call it PR?) clearly can’t be based on anything that is blatantly false.

In communication there’s something called ‘assuming best intent’, which simply means putting a positive interpretation on someone’s behaviour, and/or forgiving the negative things they do as minor aberrations which are out of character.

I’ll leave you with that thought, except to say that – though they may not realise it – malicious or negative rumour affects the gossips, as much as it does the objects of their prattling.