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Types of Bullying: Rumors

Picture of Gossip and Rumors in heart.

We’ve been discussing the various types of bullying. Understanding the tactics bullies use enables us to identify bullying behavior when it happens.

The type of bullying we’re discussing today is: Rumors.

Rumors are a fact of life. People talk. Eleanor Roosevelt once said:

“Great minds discuss ideas. Average minds discuss events. Small minds discuss people.”

So long as there are people in this world with small minds, there will be rumors. If there is one subject people love talking about, it’s each other.

Some rumors are harmless. Who’s dating the guy in second period English? Other rumors are sinister and have a nasty bite!

The problem with rumors is that people believe them. In fact, many people would rather believe a rumor than the truth!

A bully uses this to their advantage. Instead of confronting their targets directly they spread nasty rumors about them behind their back.

This makes it very difficult to track down who the bully is. Once the rumor is started it spreads like wild fire! It passes from person to person like a virus.

All the bully has to do is come up with something juicy enough to get passed around and vicious enough to be hurtful.

The problem with rumors is that the damage they do goes far beyond hurting the target’s feelings. Rumors directly affect your reputation.

This is hurtful in the school environment, but absolutely devistating in the workplace. At the end of the day your opportunities for advancement are more tightly linked to your reputation than your actual job performance.

This type of bullying is difficult to stand against. The more you deny a rumor, the more inclined people are to believe it.

We’ll discuss how to handle rumors more in our next series in which we take a look at how to take a stand against bullies!

Image by Redvers licensed under Creative Commons.


2 Responses to “Types of Bullying: Rumors”

  • Mom on

    What if the person who started the rumor is known? Should there be a one on one between the rumor starter and the person the rumor is being perpetrated against?
    Thank you for your insight.

  • Mystical Matthew on

    That’s an excellent question and I’m glad you brought it up!

    Rumor control is difficult and only gets more problematic as the rumor ages. I’ll discuss this again in the next series, but since you asked I’ll go into it deeper now.

    One of the primary motives of a bully is to get their victims to react. The target’s reaction is the only real way a bully has of measuring their “success”.

    Think of it this way… You’re a bully and you’re choosing a victim. You can either target the girl who laughs everything off and doesn’t seem to be bothered by anything, or you can target the girl who burst out into tears every time. Who do you choose?

    The problem is that direct confrontation of the person starting the rumor is likely the reaction they want. It may even give them more material to start additional rumors.

    It depends on the nature of the rumor whether you should address it at all. If it’s just someone’s opinion of you, no reaction is best. You’re bigger than that. It doesn’t even justify a response.

    If it’s a serious allegation about your character and an outright falsehood, you need to address it.

    There are a few keys to rumor control.

    First, nip them in the bud fast. The longer they hang out there with no acknowledgement from you, the more people will just automatically assume it’s true. After all, if it weren’t true why would you not defend yourself? Rumors are like weeds. The longer you go without cutting them down the stronger and bigger they become.

    Second, fight darkness with light. Fight lies with truth. The rumor is already public, so deal with it publicly. Address it as a group because the dynamics change. Everyone’s hearing the same thing at once, so there’s no room to twist or turn what you say or don’t say. Make sure the person who started the rumor is part of the group. Even if you don’t call them out directly, everyone’s going to know they’re in the hot seat.

    Third, plan your response and guard your emotions. The worst thing you can do is respond emotionally. The bully is banking on that. The moment you let your emotions show, you’ve lost to the bully. Be proactive. This is a planned maneuver. Keep your game face on.

    Fourth, keep it short. Say what needs to be said then make it clear the discussion is over. A determined bully will try to salvage the situation by hijacking the conversation from you. State the truth then move on.

    A great example would be if someone started a rumor that you were sleeping with the boss. Here’s how I would handle it:

    “Everyone, I’d like to speak with you for a moment. There have been some accusations recently that I’m having an inappropriate relationship with [boss’s name]. I’d like to state publicly that this is false. Our relationship is strictly professional. I would appreciate any further discussion of the matter being curtailed. It’s inappropriate, inconsiderate, and unacceptable. Thank you.”

    Deliver this with strength and authority. Notice I didn’t use the word “hurtful”. You don’t want the bully to think they accomplished their goal.

    Finally, if you’re in a school environment it would be beneficial to tell a teacher. As an authority figure, he or she might be able to intervene. If you’re in an office environment, I’d think through the situation carefully before bringing it to your supervisor. They may be “in on it”, which means bringing it to their attention will make things worse.

    That’s not to say you shouldn’t escalate the issue to someone with authority in the company. Just that you should consider the move carefully.

    Reputation management is an art form, and it’s one I’ve definitely not mastered. These comments are general suggestions. Examine your own situation carefully to determine what will work in your circumstance and what won’t.

    Thanks for your comment. I hope that helps, and welcome to the blog!

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