Have you ever been the target of a rumor? Do you remember how it made you feel? The truth about rumors is that they can hurt. They can not only hurt a person's feelings, but they can be harmful to his or her reputation as well.
Spreading rumors is something that we think of as occurring primarily among kids in school, and though this behavior is immature, it happens among adults also. Nothing is worse than grown folk behaving like children. However, what I have found is that adults participating in gossip and spreading rumors has more to do with their character than with their age. Being "nosy" and "messy" is, unfortunately, just who some people are.
Rumors start with harmful gossip which can be damaging to another person in that it could bring about a lot of negative attention and even threaten that person's personal relationships and livelihood. People do it on their jobs, at the grocery store, and even at church. The church is perhaps one of the biggest rumor mills there is. Those who are the target of harmful gossip can find little solace if it originated from among fellow parishioners. They are ostracized and isolated.
Sometimes things that are said about others are true, but it does not change the fact that it is gossip. Gossip that is true can be just as harmful because it might be personal information that got out by someone who may have been entrusted with it. In this case, you should consider that the person who is talking to you about someone else's business might be doing the same to you.
Information from hearsay can cause enormous conflicts when it is spread. There are some ways that you can avoid and prevent conflict in any environment.
1. Hear no evil. Don't let people bring "stuff" to you about other people. You know the difference between harmless conversation and the kind of talk that is based on speculation or false assumptions that could embarrass or hurt another in a number of ways.
2. Speak no evil. Even if you happen to hear something about someone else, whether it is true or not, do not continue to spread that information to others. You become a participant in potentially harmful gossip that could be rooted in untruths. Maybe a friend confided in you. If so, respect your friendship and that person and keep any information they shared confidential.
3. Fact check. This is especially true for those who are in managerial positions and other positions of authority because you will most likely have staff issues to arise based on hearsay. It is important to not jump to any conclusions based upon one person's account of a story or situation. Evaluate the reliability of the source. Think about the person who is bringing the information to you and consider his or her intentions.
4. Try on the shoe. Try putting yourself in someone else's shoes to see how you would like it if suddenly the rumor was about you or your family. It is called showing empathy. Empathy is what makes you stop and think about how you would feel if someone did to you what you were doing to someone else. Empathy allows us all an opportunity to make better choices about how we treat others.
"Do unto others as you would have others do unto you."
It is that same golden rule that we learned in elementary school, but some things never get old.
Contact columnist LaTonya Dunn at email@example.com.