Rumor Has It

The Jag, Staff Writer

Dear Jag,

What should I do if there is a rumor being spread about me that was started by someone in another grade?

Dear Jag Cub,

So sorry to hear that! School should be a safe, family-like environment conducive to forming and developing connections with your peers and teachers. Unfortunately, even family members have misunderstandings at times. Without knowing the specifics of the situation, I can only provide general advice regarding your dilemma. Luckily, I happen to have rather extensive personal experience with this exact issue, so I’m confident that my advice is sound.

As I’ve learned, there are multiple ways in which situations such as this may arise. Judging by the wording in your letter, it seems like you are aware of the individual responsible for instigating and perpetuating the rumor. If this is in fact the case, your battle is half won already. You’re facing a Category 1 rumor. Whether the perpetrator is a close friend or the type to kick the back of your seat during Town Hall, there is a clear disconnect between the two of you, and that, more than the rumor itself, is the problem. The key to killing a rumor rarely ever involves addressing the rumor itself. Your course of action will involve direct confrontation.

Approach the person. Ask if they have a minute to talk. This feels intimidating, yes, but a person has no grounds to become angry or defensive toward another person who only asks to talk. The most important thing to remember here is to remain civil and non accusatory, as breaking this form gives your opponent the upper hand. Once you become angered or offensive, the other individual becomes justified in responding defensively, turning your appeal to peace into an argument. Stay safe and keep a level head while you explain to this student how their words and actions have negatively affected you, and how you’re happy to work through any issues that may exist between the two of you, but that such issues should be dealt with through face-to-face discussion, like adults.

This strategy, when approached thoughtfully and correctly, works in the majority of cases for solving unnecessary conflicts between peers. However, if for some reason this plan fails you, there is another – and perhaps more persuasive – method of embarking on the near-insurmountable task of swaying public opinion. This method seems obvious, but is much easier to conceptualize than to carry out. It requires commitment. Basically, whatever it is that is being said about you (and I’m assuming it’s not something flattering), behave in the most contradictory fashion that you possibly can. You can’t talk everyone out of believing gossip, but you can prove to them through your actions that you are not the person that rumor makes you out to be. Rumors try to take away our control over our own lives and reputations. When we don’t combat them, that’s exactly what they’ll do. Prove to everyone – including yourself – that you are in charge of your own reputation, your own fate, your own character.

People will talk no matter what. You won’t be able to control what they say or how they say it, but you can always control how you respond.