How to Stop a Rumor

A rumor is an unsubstantiated, often false story that spreads rapidly from person to person through word of mouth. Rumors can have an enormous influence on groups of people, for good or ill, and may cause individuals to behave in ways that they wouldn’t normally do. A rumor can also make big companies look bad and harm their reputations, for instance when the rumor that McDonald’s discriminates against blacks went viral.

Some rumors prey on anxieties that everyone shares, such as fears of terrorism or war. They are easy to spread because they trigger an emotional response in many people at once. Rumors can also be a form of social control, for example when they warn that a natural disaster is imminent or when they encourage rioting in response to a political event.

It’s important to understand what makes a rumor work so that you can use it to your advantage. For instance, if you’re trying to start a rumor about someone, try to leave evidence around so that it becomes harder for others to disprove the rumor. If you’re spreading a rumor about your boss, for instance, you might plant pieces of dog food around their office or in their lunch bag to give the rumor credibility.

Other factors that affect a rumor’s accuracy include cognitive mechanisms such as narrowing of attention, memory limits and perceptual biases. Various social motives, including fact-finding and relationship-enhancement, can also play a role. For instance, students who serially transmitted a rumor tended to pass along parts of it that were more consistent with stereotypes because they are easier to process.

A rumor can also have a strong believability effect, which is why it’s often so difficult to stop a rumor once it’s started. The more credible and dramatic a rumor is, the more likely it is to be believed by the audience. For instance, a rumor that a celebrity died in a car crash is more likely to be believed than a rumor about a small town fire.

Another way to stop a rumor is by finding out who is behind it. This can be hard if the person isn’t willing to admit that they’ve spread it, but you can try to find out if they were motivated by a desire for power or to hurt your feelings.

If you can figure out the source of the rumor, try to communicate with them to see if they’d like to hear what you have to say about the situation. If they’re not willing to hear you out, it may be a sign that they’re suffering from low self-esteem and want to create drama in their relationships with other people. Regardless of the reasons, be kind and show them grace and forgiveness. Hopefully, they’ll change their behavior in the future. If not, you’ll have to learn how to deal with them without letting their negative actions ruin your own life. You may also consider leaving them alone for awhile and seeing if they change their ways on their own.