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‘Did you Hear….’ This is a regular phase heard among people regardless of gender and this phrase is commonly used for rumours and not facts. Rumours are those juicy tidbits you heard from a friend, who heard it from another friend, who heard it from a person in the hall, who read it on a note passed in the office, which was written by somebody who probably just made it up.

Rumours and gossips are always floating around in our offices, schools and environment and it seem perfectly normal. Afterall everyone gossips, parents, pastors, politicians etc. It’s a part of how we communicate and stay connected with each other lives and also a form of social interaction.

Sometimes, this is harmless, but at other times it can be very hurtful to individuals, friendships, and whole groups of people. Did you know that spreading rumors about someone is a form of bullying? Yep. It could be just expressing disapproval, sharing one’s discontent or opining one’s views about a certain action or a certain person. Indulging in such gossip is not considered very harmful as long as you do not influence the other people too much with your negative thoughts.

Here are a few reasons why people spread rumours

  1. To feel superior
    When people are feeling bad about themselves, they sometimes think they’ll feel better if there were someone worse off than they are. It’s like, it’s okay being near the bottom, as long as they’re not actually on the bottom. The easiest way for them to make sure someone else is on the bottom is to make up a rumor that puts him or her there.

2. To feel like part of the group
If everybody else is gossiping or spreading rumors, you might feel you have to do the same thing in order to fit in. When you’re “in on the secret,” you’re in the group. Unfortunately, the person who the gossip or rumor is about is usually left out of the group for the same reason that you’re let into it.

3. For attention
When you know a secret that nobody knows, or are the first person in your group to hear a rumor, it can make you the center of attention. A rumor or piece of gossip is sometimes like money; telling it to people is like buying their attention, if only for a few minutes. You might even save up a really scandalous rumor, waiting for the right moment to blab so you get the maximum amount of attention
for it.

4. For control or power
Certain people always want to be in control and at the top of the ladder. You probably know at least one person who needs to be the leader, say what goes, and make all the decisions. When people are at the top of the popularity scale, or are determined to climb higher, one way they do this is by reducing the “status” of another person. Spreading rumors and gossip is one of the main ways people reduce another person’s status, especially among girls. It’s like one caveman beating up another caveman for control of the tribe-only it’s done with cruel whispers and petty remarks instead of fists.

5. Out of jealousy or a need for revenge
If you’re jealous of someone’s looks, popularity, or money, you might gossip about that person in order to hurt him or her. If you feel that someone’s done something bad to you, or deserves to be hurt, making up a rumor might satisfy your sense of justice.

6. Out of boredom
Did you know that in many studies, this was the #1 reason why young people say they spread rumors? Sometimes, a period where everyone is happy and getting along just seems kind of-dull. Spreading juicy dish might shake things up a bit, or get two people to start a fight, and that would make life a little more exciting. All those tabloid newspapers and TV shows full of celebrity gossip are pure proof that rumors are a popular form of entertainment.There are many reasons why rumours can be so harmful:

  • Words hurt as much as a punch. Sometimes more, because a punch may be painful, but at least it’s over pretty fast. Rumors are, quite simply, a form of bullying that’s sometimes referred to as “relational aggression.”
  • Gossip and rumors can be a form of exclusion. When you spread a rumor about someone, you’re sending a signal that the person is outside of the group, and somehow less worthy of friendship than others.
  • Gossip and rumors can destroy trust. We need to be able to trust our friends, and gossiping and rumors can break this trust. If you tell a personal secret to a friend, and he turns around and blabs it to someone else, you might feel like you’ll get burned if you ever get close to him again.

Here are a few tips to reduce the impact of rumors:

  1. Intervene quickly when there is a rumor and coach the worst offenders to stop. Provide solid, believable information about what is really going to happen. It is best to have this intervention before the rumor even starts, but it is essential to nip the problem as soon as it is detected.
  2. Double the communication in times of uncertainty. When in doubt, talk, think and talk again before making conclusions.
  3. Find multiple ways to communicate the truth. People need to hear something more than once to start believing it. According to the Edelman Trust Barometer for 2011, nearly 60% of people indicate they need to hear organizational news (good or bad) at least three to five times before they believe it.
  4. Extinguish and model gossip behavior. This may mean breaking up a clique of busy-bodies or at least adding some new objective blood into the mix. It might mean having a “no BS” policy for everyone.

Finally, when you hear something about someone you know and have the urge to pass it on, don’t think about whether it’s true or not. Instead, ask yourself these questions:

  • Why do I want to pass this on?
  • Would I want people to know this kind of information
    about me?
  • How will this person feel if he or she knew this rumor was being spread?
  • Will this rumor reduce this person’s status or make him or her excluded from the group?
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