|Gossip and rumors are forms of bullying and fall under the category of relational bullying. In my opinion, this type of bullying can become the most devastating of all. It is the most difficult to prove and detect and can leave damage that can last much longer than physical bullying. Gossip and rumors are mean-spirited, can be used in retaliation and are a negative form of communication. According to the dictionary they include “doubtful truth” and “typically involves details that are not confirmed as being true.”
“Gossiping and lying go hand in hand.” – Proverb
Minimizing rumors and gossip can be an incredibly valuable skill for kids especially during middle school when this behavior peaks. The strategies discussed below should be followed in order for them to be most effective. The following is adapted from the PEERS® social skills training intervention program curriculum.
Don’t try to disprove the rumor
This can be quite difficult as our natural instinct is to deny a rumor about ourselves. Disproving or arguing about the rumor could actually start a new rumor about us being upset.
Don’t appear upset
This again can be quite difficult as it is logical that we would be upset and that emotion could add fuel to rumor.
Don’t confront the person spreading the gossip
Once again, confronting the person starting the rumor could cause more damage and enable them to feel justified to spread even more rumors.
Avoid the person spreading the gossip
Being around the person spreading the gossip can start additional rumors of how you couldn’t look them in the eye or how you gave them the evil eye.
Act amazed anyone cares or believes the gossip
Your peers are watching to see your reaction. Let them know you really don’t care whether the gossip is true or not.
If it is true, you could say:
If it is not true, you could say:
Spread the rumor about yourself
This requires you to be proactive and not wait for your peers to ask you about the rumor. This requires three steps:
Acknowledge the rumor exists
Discredit and make fun of the rumor
Act amazed anyone would believe or care about the rumor
Practicing these steps can help a teen navigate and minimize the effects of rumors and gossip. For more information about PEERS® and their evidence-based social skills programs and bootcamps, go to their website.