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Handling a Rumor – What to Do About a False Claim

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Handling a Rumor – What to Do About a False Claim

A rumor is a “frivolous, often unverified and often false story of unverified allegations, gossip or gossiping about someone, usually a public figure, which is circulated through word of mouth, through media, and/or printed media.” A rumor is a “wild, unsubstantiated and often incorrect claim of facts about someone, usually a public figure, that is circulated through word of mouth, through the media, and/or printed media.” Some rumors are just that, false and unfounded while others are true. Some rumors have legs of truth, while others lack any real merit. This article focuses on the latter.

In my professional opinion, I started a rumor by giving a speech on Valentine’s Day to a group of students at a public school. My opening statement was, “I’d like to introduce myself. My name is Stephen Jones and I’m an accomplished speaker and author of several books on the subjects of love and marriage. My favorite subject is love and marriage.” Almost everyone in the audience laughed at my joke and so I continued.

“Now then, some of you ladies might be thinking, Dr. Jones is a man who talks about men in bed.” I looked around at my audience and asked them if they had a problem with that and asked if they had heard that before. Almost without exception, they did. The conversation grew heated and personal, as it often does when there is a rumor going around. A couple of ladies got up and told the crowd that I had called their husbands gay or worse, that I was a liar and a disgrace to the community.

It didn’t matter that I had never once called anyone by the name of “gay” or “lesbian” in my life; I had started a rumor that caused hurt and confusion. When the dust settled, not only did the ladies think I was a jerk for saying something so outrageous, but many other people thought I was a liar and a disgrace to the community. This rumor was started by an ignorant fool and has caused more problems than it solved.

The lesson? Don’t start a rumor. If someone asks you question that you know the answer to, simply say, “I don’t know, but I am researching this for research purposes.” You might get hit with the “you lied” punch, but when someone asks you a question you know the answer to, simply say, “I’m researching this for educational purposes.” Then politely ask them to explain their question and then politely answer it.

Don’t allow a rumor to make your life miserable. If you feel the need to defend yourself in person, do so in a polite manner and with tact. Let the person know that you are interested in investigating the matter further and hope that the clarification will help clear things up. If you don’t catch the person in the act of spreading the rumor, don’t take it personally.