Pettiness and drama seem to be a constant part of the human experience.
One would think that as time goes by and we have life’s responsibilities to navigate, people would leave drama and gossip behind in the school playground.
Unfortunately, some people never grow up and continue to spread rumors and talk about other people behind their back well into adulthood.
A rumormonger’s gossip can be destructive, negatively affect a person’s self-esteem, and cause unwanted problems in their life.
This article will explain how to deal with a person who is talking about you behind your back.
The approach you take will largely depend on where it’s happening – your personal or professional life.
But, before you do anything about the rumormonger, there is one important step to take.
Consider whether or not your source of information is reliable.
People can be pretty underhanded sometimes. After all, it’s not someone who openly dislikes you who ends up betraying you, it’s the people that are close to you and who you may think are on your side.
The first person you should examine is the one who told you that you are being talked about behind your back.
That person may have ulterior motives for trying to disrupt your relationships with other people or get in your head.
It’s fairly easy for a manipulative person to craft an image of themselves as trustworthy.
After all, they just told you about this other person who is talking behind your back! Of course they’re trustworthy! They just gave you that valuable information, didn’t they?
So consider the source of information. Ask yourself the following questions.
1. Does the giving of this information jive with the type of person the information giver is?
There are numerous types of people in the world with different ideas and perspectives on how they interact with others.
Some people wouldn’t be caught dead spreading rumors, others may not even want to talk to people in any kind of personal fashion, and others may be constantly looking for the next person to get the dirt on and start some drama.
2. What are the motives behind the information giver’s actions?
Why are they giving you this information? Do they directly benefit from giving you this information and sowing distrust?
Ulterior motives can range from just wanting to start drama for entertainment, to trying to interfere in a friendship or relationship to break it up, to influencing a work environment and forcing the person into a different direction.
3. What are their further actions?
A person who has an ulterior motive is going to have some long-term plan that they are trying to make work.
Their motives may not be clear and apparent at first, but if you pay attention to their actions in the days following the dropping of that information then they may give their motives away.
A person who wants to suddenly hang out more or is talking about an open position at work may be trying to influence you away from a direction they don’t want you to go.
Consider the source of the information carefully. Are they trustworthy? Are they the type of person who would engage in these kinds of behaviors in the first place?
If the source of information passes muster, then you can start considering how to deal with the source of gossip.
Dealing With Gossip In The Workplace
A person does not typically get to pick and choose who they spend their time around in the workplace.
Most of the time, you’ll end up working with a variety of people with different life perspectives, some of which will be jerks.
The way to handle rumors in the workplace really depends on the gravity of the rumors being spread, what documentation you can build up, the competency of management and HR, and what you may end up sacrificing in the long run.
1. Consider the severity of the rumors.
Are they severe? Or are they something that can be ignored and brushed aside?
Does it sound like the information that came back to you is malicious or is it coming from a place of miscommunication?
If it seems like there was a miscommunication, that is likely something that can be resolved by talking to the people involved.
If the rumors are malicious or harmful, you likely need to take it up with management and HR.
2. Collect whatever evidence you can before going to management.
Is there any kind of paper trail or evidence that can be used to back up your claim?
You will likely need to give the names of everyone you believe to be involved to management so they can conduct their own interviews and find out what’s going on.
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3. Document whatever evidence you have.
Make a copy for yourself in case things end up going badly or you are retaliated against.
In a fair and just world, you’d be able to take your claim and your evidence to management and have your situation resolved, but we don’t live in a fair and just world.
Sometimes management will act against you for complaining. Sometimes they’ll try to demote you, cut your hours, or pressure you into quitting. Sometimes they will completely dismiss the complaint as petty and not worth the time or effort.
The reality is that standing up for yourself in the workplace may end up getting you fired or retaliated against. If that happens, you’ll want to have any evidence available that you might have to take to an attorney.
It is illegal for an employer to do these things, but that certainly doesn’t stop them from trying.
Most companies are going to have their own guidelines and investigative processes for dealing with claims of harassment, which spreading rumors is.
It’ll probably differ depending on the size of the company and their management. What is true for all companies is that you should not be retaliated against. At that point, you’ll want to stop talking to the company about it and consult an attorney.
Dealing With Gossip In Your Personal Life
Dealing with drama and people who spread rumors in your personal life is a different matter altogether.
It comes down to what kind of relationship you have with the person spreading the rumors and what type of person they are.
Some people thrive on creating drama. Confronting that type of person rarely helps because they will just lie their way around the issue.
That type of person usually gives themselves away pretty quickly by what they say to you.
What does the person talk about to you? Do they gossip about their friends and family to you?
If they do, you can pretty much guarantee that they are going to be saying things about you to other people behind your back.
You’ll have to decide for yourself what that’s going to mean for you and the relationship you share with that person.
There are really two different ways you can approach this scenario.
Even if you confront this person with hard evidence, they’re likely not going to change their core behavior, which means you’ll never really be able to trust them with anything important.
Can people change? Of course. They absolutely can – but most don’t because change is hard or they just don’t care enough to try.
By all means, confront the person and try to seek a resolution if you want to try to salvage the friendship or relationship, but maintain realistic expectations about how successful that will be.
Simply put, there’s little reason to waste your valuable time or emotional energy on people that you know you can’t trust.
The first option is to cut that person out of your life.
But maybe that’s not an option that will work for you. Maybe the person is a relative or friend of someone that is connected to you and you can’t just cut them out of your life.
In that scenario, you can dial back how much information you share with the person and adopt the “Gray Rock” method.
The people who spread rumors and thrive on drama are usually looking for some kind of excitement or emotional release through their actions.
You can deprive them of that by becoming a gray rock.
That is, you share nothing of interest, nothing exciting, nothing personal, nothing any deeper than surface level superficiality with that person so they have no reason to be interested in you.
You are just a gray rock, living a boring and uninteresting life.
The person will typically get attracted to some other shiny object and move themselves in that direction, away from you and your space.
Should I confront the person spreading the rumors?
There is a lot of rhetoric out there about standing up for yourself and making sure your voice is heard, which is an important message.
However, it’s not always the right message.
There are some situations where you just can’t win and all that speaking up will do is cost you a lot.
Let’s say you confront a person you thought was a friend and who you think is spreading rumors about you, but they happen to be a skilled liar and manipulator.
You may find yourself standing alone if they have the capability to turn your friends and family against you.
If you don’t have any evidence to support your claim, it can turn into their word against yours, and your word may not win out.
The confrontation may cost you friends that aren’t astute enough to see through the person’s lies.
Sometimes standing up for yourself is knowing when to step back quietly from something that doesn’t serve you anymore.
And a person who is willfully spreading rumors about you behind your back is most likely not a very good person to begin with.
Decent people don’t spread malicious rumors about other people behind their backs.
If you do decide to confront the person, do gather any evidence you can, such as copies of chat logs if they happen to exist.
If you know the person is spreading rumors, you can also confront them just to see what they’ll say, if they will admit to their actions or just try to lie their way out of it, which is a good measure of their character.
You’ll need to decide the best approach for you and your life, whether that is an open confrontation or just quietly stepping away to preserve your peace.