Monday, August 22, 2011

On Rumor

How do you handle rumors about you?

To begin with you have to hear them. This is not as easy as you may think. In order to hear what others are saying about you, you must be someone people can feel comfortable coming to with gossip about you. That means they have to trust you not to shoot the messenger and to thank them for bringing even bad news to your attention. It also means you should often try to add detail or information to rumors about yourself to give people extra incentive to bring such things to your attention.

Then your response will vary by the type of rumor, and most rumors are actually a combination of things and thus require a combination of responses. The basic things to consider are if the rumor is about feelings or fact and if it is about you or someone else.

The easiest rumor to deal with is a factual rumor about someone else, you generally want to do nothing unless you either know it to be false in which case you say so, or know it to be something that the person involved is out about in which case you can involved would have no problem telling you so themselves.

For example if you respond to "Sam and Chris are dating" you want to say nothing if you know nothing, say "No Sam is exclusive with Jo" if you know that is the case, or say "Yes, and Sam is proud as a peacock about it" if you know that to be the case. The hard part if if you know this is true but know Sam asked you not to let it be known, in which case you simply listen and say something like "That is interesting" or "Huh" and move on.

A factual rumor about you is more difficult, but in general you want to confirm if it is true and if possible add detail and context. If it is true but involves breaching the trust of someone else thank the person for telling you and avoid comment until you can talk to the other person involved. If you do get permission to go public from the other person involved, be sure to tell the person who brought the rumor to your attention first. If the rumor is untrue, say so and give details and facts that contradict it.

For example: When responding to "I heard you and Sam were dating" you can say "Yes, we went out for the second time Saturday to that lovely ice cream place" or "No, we did meet up for coffee last week, but that was to discuss plans for the kennel, I would never even try to come between Sam and Jo" or if you haven't checked with Sam yet say "Really? That is interesting" and move on, but circle back to confirm the rumor if you can.

A rumor about the feeling of others should always get the same response, "Well they are entitled to feel how they feel" this sounds easier than it is. The other trick is to remember that opinions can be treated as feelings.

For example "I heard Jim hates you" is going to be upsetting but "Jim is entitled to feel as he does" is one of the few dignified responses. You can add "I am disappointed he feels that way" but never argue with someone's feelings even in the rumor mill. Opinions like "Jim thinks you are crazy" are often best dealt with this way, saying "He is entitled to his feelings, but I don't agree" is easier than trying to treat your sanity as an objective point to argue about.

When it comes to rumors about your own feelings you need to assert yourself as expert but also treat others feelings and opinions about your emotional states as valid. This can be a tricky balance.

For example "Jim thinks you hate him" if you don't is best responded to by saying "Oh, no! I Jim and I are not best friends but I rather like him and I have always meant to get to know him better, but time pressures have prevented it, but I can respect Jim's coming to that conclusion by my limited contact with him and I really should try to do something about that.

In general the best response is to offer more good information either way, but to keep in mind that a lady knows her own mind, but not the minds of others.