This week, Author Catherine A. Winn blogs about the evils of spreading rumors and how rumor can affect the average teenager. In her YA mystery, Beyond Suspicion, Winn’s heroine Shelby becomes the victim of severe rumor-mongering after her younger brother is kidnapped while in her care. When the police are slow to eliminate her as a suspect, rumors arise from nowhere, with accusations that have no basis in reality but which nonetheless cut Shelby to the core.
Your best friend comes to school one morning and notices funny glances in the hall and behind-the-hand whispers directed at her as girls walk past. She gets this weird feeling inside and spots one of her other friends at the lockers.
“What’s going on?” she asks.
“Nothing. Don’t worry about it. Gotta go.” Her friend closes the locker and hurries off.
When she walks into her homeroom a classmate meets her at the door. “Is it true? Did you …?”
It doesn’t matter what this particular unkind rumor is about, they are all designed to hurt. Your best friend comes to you in tears.
Gossiping, spreading rumors, trash talking, put downs in person or online—what do people get out of it? People involved in spreading unkind and untrue rumors have reasons that make sense to them. Sometimes it feels a little like being a celebrity in the spotlight. I know something you don’t know. For a few minutes everyone’s attention is on them and they like the feeling it gives them.
But what about the victim’s feelings? When people repeat a rumor do they consider how it will make him or her feel? Does it matter to them? Maybe feelings aren’t considered if the rumor is so scandalous it just has to be passed on.
Your best friend feels wounded and humiliated. All she wants is to do is go home and hide. You want to help, but how?
Find some other friends who will let her know they don’t believe the rumor and they have her back. If you know who is responsible, don’t go on the attack and start a new rumor. Instead, tell your best friend to try having a private, calm, honest conversation with that person and ask her to stop making up lies. If your friend doesn’t want to do that or after the talk the problem escalates, urge her to tell a parent, teacher, or another adult in authority and offer to go with her. The most important thing is to not let your friend think she’s all alone and has to suffer in silence, hoping her problem goes away on its own.
The next time someone comes to you to pass on an unkind rumor, don’t listen. Choose not to participate by telling him or her that you don’t want to hear things like that or that you are too busy to listen and walk away. You’ll be glad you did.
Sources used in preparation for writing this post:
Gossip and Rumors: Did you hear?
Someone Is Spreading Rumors About Me, What Can I Do?