What Are Rumors?
Younger children may start rumors that someone is "mean" and that they should not be played with. In older children and teens, gossip may include comments about a person's family, behavior, or attitude.
Common ways a person may bully another using rumors includes:
- Saying negative things about another person
- Saying negative things about another person's family or friends
- Forming alliances with one another
- Placing specific emphasis on popularity or lack thereof
- Socially isolating someone else
- Whispering in front of other people
- Encouraging others to ignore or pick on someone
Rumors may happen at school, at work, at church, or online through sites like Facebook and Twitter. The main purpose of starting rumors and gossip is to hurt someone else or to ruin his or her reputation. Often rumors are not true, or are only partially true. They may be started out of jealousy, as well.
Rumors may have a strong impact on a person's self-esteem, confidence, and mood, so it is important to ask for help if you are being subjected to cruel rumors and verbal bullying.
Cliques and Exclusion
A lot of people haven't considered that "cliques" can be a form of bullying as well. A clique is a small group of people that usually do not allow "new" members into their group, and will often exclude all others, sometimes harmfully. There are many instances where cliques and clique-ish behavior leads to bullying and the start of rumors about non-members. These groups can start as early as kindergarten!
Everyone knows how much it sucks to feel excluded from a group, especially if the group targets you as someone to pick on. These groups can be at school, at work, on a social media site like Facebook, or just about anywhere that people gather together. Cliques are often gossipy, wreak havoc on the social hierarchy of a school, and usually focus an awful lot on trying to feel "cool" or "popular."
When a clique uses this social power to make someone else feel bad, to exclude them, or to hurt them, this becomes bullying (click the link for more information about bullying).
What's the Problem With Gossip?
Gossip is casual talk about people and their personal affairs. Sounds kinda harmless, right? Well, there's good gossip - casual talk that provides useful information (Did you hear Sarah's mom is sick? We should give her a card) and bad gossip (OMG, did you see what Sarah is wearing? That outfit makes her look really fat/gross/slutty).
Bad gossip is casual talk that is harmful, mean, and can destroy lives. No, I'm not joking.
What's The Harm With Gossip?
- It can ruin a good person's reputation.
- It can humiliate people.
- It can raise doubts and cause mistrust.
- It can destroy friendships.
- It can demean people.
- It can make public things that should have been kept private.
- It can cause low self-esteem.
- And if you're the one who's gossiping, you've also got some problems.
A gossiper shows just what they're made of - and talking shit about other people isn't something that's particularly good to be known for.
Eventually, a bad gossiper will lose friends. Who wants to be friends with someone who talks shit about everyone they know?
So What Do I Do If Rumors Are Taking Over My Life?
How the hell do you STOP these rumors and gossip?
1) Remember that you have no control about what other people say about you. Which sucks, I know. What you DO have control over is how you REACT to what people say about you. Reacting may only fuel the fire of the other person. Bullies LIKE to see they have affected you.
2) Remember that the gossip has much more to do with the group who is DOING the gossiping than it does about you. If it wasn't you, it'd be someone else - that's how gossipers roll. Now that's not super comforting, but it means this: the gossip doesn't actually have anything to do with you, who you are, or your values.
3) The group who is gossiping is probably just doing so because of their own insecurities. Some people (assholes) like to attack other people who are threatening to them in some way or another.
4) Be yourself. Try not to let it get you down. Don't change who you are because of what these people say about you. Gossipers will keep gossiping, but the amount of damage you allow it to do to you is up to you.
Help! I'm A Gossiper!
If you're a gossiper, you need to take a second, step back and think about how your words must affect someone else. Sure, some amount of gossiping is inevitable, but spreading rumors and talking shit about someone else may ACTUALLY hurt them. Why the hell would you want to HURT someone else?
So ask yourself: why do you gossip? Why do you think it's okay to gossip? Does it make you feel better when other people are torn down in front of you? Does it make you feel like you're a part of a group? BE HONEST ABOUT IT.
And really, why the shit would you want to be an asshole to someone else? Karma is a bitch and does come back to haunt you.
When people hear the word "hazing," they usually think of bad fraternity movies, but hazing can happen in school, at work, or anywhere else there's a group of people. Hazing is defined as acts that:
- Intentionally humiliate or embarrass someone
- Can emotionally or physically harm a person
- May involve coercing a person "for the good of the team" or for any other reason to do something they would not ordinarily do
Many acts of hazing are considered abusive or violating; alcohol may also be involved. If you're involved in a situation where you are humiliated, degraded, shamed, or forced to do something you don't want to do, you may be a victim of hazing - and hazing is another way of bullying and abusing another person.
If You See People Gossiping:Speak up! Open your mouth and USE YOUR VOICE. Staying silent increases the gossipers power. No one deserves to be bullied. Challenge rumors and break the cycle.
Give some comfort to the gossip victim. Let them know that what happened wasn’t fair and shouldn’t have happened. Provide your voice to the victim as a witness to the abuse.
If it's safe to, speak up to the gossiper or interject on the victim’s behalf. If that doesn’t work, talk to an adult. Let them know what you saw.Cyberbullying
Rumor and Bullying Resources:
PBS Kids provides tips on how to break the chain that propagates rumors and gossip and what to do when the rumors are about you. They also have a Girl's Survival Guide to Middle School.Pacer Center’s Teens Against Bullying – site for teens, endorsed by teen idols, that explains the ins-and-outs of bullying and encourages action.
Pacer Center’s Kids Against Bullying – Pacer Center’s site for elementary school kids about bullying. Very interactive.
Stop Bullying (dot) Gov – information from various government agencies (oh, shut up, they have good shit, even if they’re the government) aimed at teens and young adults.