As someone who travels across the country each year speaking to students, parents, and educators about bullying, I often hear the question... Jeff, how do you deal with someone spreading a rumor about you? If your child is struggling with this issue, share this advice with them.
Rumors seem to be a really tricky thing to respond to. After all, with the internet, a simple rumor can quickly get out of hand spreading from the cafeteria at school to the web where it can reach hundreds or thousands of people. While we often get caught up in the damage that a rumor can do to someone's reputation we must first look at the goal of this negative behavior.
Someone that is spreading a rumor has two main goals...
1. To make the target upset
2. To gain attention from others
If we know the motives, we can craft a response that will stop the behavior. Follow these steps to suffocate the rumor.
1. Don't Get Upset
Getting angry only makes those spreading the rumors look like winners and you look like a loser. If you get upset and lash out or try and argue about whether or not the rumor is true, you will immediately be seen as the weaker person.
It doesn't matter what they say. What matters much more is how you deal with it. When you stay calm and choose not to get upset, the person making fun of you will realize that they cannot upset you. They may try to spread more rumors in an effort to make you mad but once they see that they can't hurt you, it won't be any fun for them. As a result, they will stop or move onto someone else who will give them a reaction.
2. Ask a Clear Question When Confronted
It's likely that the rumor being spread will get back to the person that it's targeted to. People will want to know whether or not you've heard the rumor that's being spread about you. Usually someone will approach you and ask you if it is true or not. When they do, you have an opportunity to change their opinion of you. Remember, you cannot control what they think about you or if they spread the rumor. It's a waste of your time to even try. Haters are gonna hate.
When they ask you about the rumor, say this...
"Do you believe it?"
Asking someone if they believe a rumor will make them think. They may be caught up the emotion. Your question will make them stop and really think about what they believe.
No matter what they say, respond with...
"Well, you can believe whatever you want, it's a free country. People say all sorts of things. I don't really pay attention to it."
If this person's goal is to upset you, your response will show them that you don't really care what others say. It also lets them know that if they spread the rumor they are only wasting their time. You aren't going to try to stop them or change their view about you. Treat this person like a friend, no matter how they treat you. When they see how strong you are (despite what others are saying) they will likely form their own opinion about you.
Love is not easily angered
This article is based on the philosophical theories of Izzy Kalman, NCSP who has devoted his career to helping solve the bullying problem through the use of the Golden Rule. Izzy is a brilliant thinker. You can learn more about Izzy's program here.