Not the tiny, crawly crea­ture bit­ing your pet, silly! But my way to deal with ru­mour-mon­gers

Hindustan Times (Patna) - Live - - Time Out - SONAL KALRA sonal.kalra@hin­dus­tan­times.com or on Face­book at face­book.com/sonal.kalra. Fol­low on Twit­ter @son­al­kalra

Last week, I got a rather dis­turb­ing mail from a 14-year-old who was very stressed out. Since she wouldn’t like me re­veal­ing her real name, let’s just call her Ria. I’ve cho­sen to write an open let­ter to her only be­cause her prob­lem is one that plagues all of us at some point in our lives.

Here’s what she wrote. “I study in tenth stan­dard. There’s this girl in my class who loathes me, with­out a rea­son. She has such ha­tred for me that she not only in­sti­gates oth­ers against me, but has also taken to spread­ing vul­gar ru­mours about my per­sonal life, in­clud­ing that of my par­ents. I’m very con­scious of my rep­u­ta­tion and this hurts me no end. Those who don’t know me well have started to be­lieve all the lies she tells them. My patience is run­ning out. I have spent half of my sum­mer va­ca­tion cry­ing alone in my room, and I’m even cry­ing in front of my lap­top as I write this to you. I feel help­less!!” Ok, well. Ria, wipe the tears please. Shed­ding them be­cause you have a so­cial rat in your life would be quite a waste­ful ex­er­cise.

I’m sad at read­ing your mail but my dis­ap­point­ment is largely on ac­count of you hav­ing to ex­pe­ri­ence this while you are so young. Be­cause as you grow, you’ll re­alise that it’s al­most im­pos­si­ble to not en­counter such pests at some point in your life, pro­fes­sional or per­sonal. Very few of us can claim that they’ve never en­coun­tered a ru­mour-mon­ger in life and that’s prob­a­bly be­cause they’ve been busy be­ing one. Ev­ery now and then, a per­son — class­mate or col­league, neigh­bour or rel­a­tive — enters our life with a mis­sion to turn it mis­er­able.

Their arse­nal has the ob­vi­ous weapons — vi­cious ru­mours, back­bit­ing and mock­ery. To­day, I’m try­ing to give you an arse­nal of your own. Be­cause, you know, it’s rather silly to counter an armed ad­ver­sary with just tears. Let’s start with a smile, be­cause noth­ing ir­ri­tates your op­po­nent like see­ing you happy. And, then let’s adopt a strat­egy, which I call ‘T-ICK’, maybe be­cause of the so­cial rat anal­ogy. T-ICK stands for ‘To choose - Ignore, Con­front or Kick’.

1 IGNORE: I know you are al­ready shak­ing your head at the very men­tion of this op­tion. Be­cause to most of us, the thought of ig­nor­ing an at­tack comes with the feel­ing of be­ing weak. But, let me tell you, there are few weapons as po­tent as be­ing able to ignore the one who’s out to get you. The trick is to dis­so­ci­ate ig­nor­ing a scum­bag from the thought of be­ing a cow­ard. And to re­mem­ber, that you are ‘choos­ing’ to ignore some­one’s vi­cious­ness only for your peace of mind, and not be­cause you can’t do any­thing about it.

Years ago, a col­league who I had got­ten into a pro­fes­sional spat with, went on a spree of pass­ing bit­ter feed­back and re­marks on any­thing I did at work. My ini­tial re­sponse was to counter all that he said by ag­gres­sively de­fend­ing my­self in an email ex­change. Soon, I re­alised that not only was this end­less ping-pong of ac­cu­sa­tions feed­ing his neg­a­tiv­ity but also zap­ping me of my hap­pi­ness. That mo­ment, I could choose be­tween re­act­ing at ev­ery provo­ca­tion and get­ting a faux sense of courage or ig­nor­ing it and gain­ing pre­cious peace of mind. I chose the lat­ter and haven’t re­gret­ted it. Re­mem­ber, a vi­cious per­son feeds on the vic­tim’s re­sponse. Don’t give any, and you’ll starve him.

2 CON­FRONT: This may seem like a con­tra­dic­tion to the above ad­vice but it isn’t. Be­cause rather than con­fronting the ru­mour-mon­ger, I’m ask­ing you to con­front the ru­mour in­stead. Don’t shy away from what’s be­ing said about you, ad­dress it di­rectly, es­pe­cially when it’s un­true. When you ac­knowl­edge a ru­mour, you take the mo­men­tum out of it. A friend of mine who was sick of a class­mate, Na­man, spread­ing false ru­mours about him be­ing ho­mo­sex­ual, once turned up for class wear­ing a self-painted T-shirt that said, “No, I’m not gay. But even if I was, it wouldn’t be your busi­ness.” With­out ut­ter­ing a word, he ended up em­bar­rass­ing the per­pe­tra­tor and zapped the fun out of the ru­mour. It’s another thing that I had sug­gested him to wear one that said, “Sorry, Na­man, I’m not gay. Now you’ll have to hit on some­one else.” I’m some­times glad that not ev­ery­one takes my ad­vice.

3 KICK: Oh, this one’s my favourite, for ob­vi­ous rea­sons. But just so I don’t get hate mail from your mom, let me clar­ify that this op­tion should be turned to, only as the last re­sort. And that this does NOT mean you lit­er­ally kick some­one. Sadly. Any­how, this im­plies get­ting even, but with­out stoop­ing down to be­low-the-belt tac­tics. Take them head on and broad­cast the ru­mour your­self, giv­ing them credit for it, in pub­lic. You could con­sider lodg­ing a for­mal com­plaint with some­one in author­ity or even reach­ing out to their friends or fam­ily and ex­plain­ing what they are do­ing. But the best is to ir­ri­tate the life out of them. Laugh when­ever you see them. Un­con­trol­lably. Loudly. Don’t give a rea­son, if they ask what’s funny. If they come down to hurl­ing in­sults, ut­ter this magic sen­tence: ‘Why, no. Are/have/do you?’. Ap­ply this in any sit­u­a­tion and it’ll work. Sam­ple this: “You crazy loser. Have you lost it?’ Why, no. Have you? ‘You sleep with ev­ery boyfriend on the first date.’ Why, no. Do you? Re­mem­ber, con­tinue to laugh, and look them in the eye when you say it. It works, try it. And hey, no cry­ing again, okay?

Sonal Kalra once tried spread­ing a ru­mour about

her­self. She was told later that it has another name —

show­ing off. Mail her at

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