One Busi­ness No Com­mu­nity Needs: The Ru­mor Mill

McDonald County Press - - COUNTY -

SPRINGFIELD — Most ev­ery town in Amer­ica, no mat­ter the pop­u­la­tion, has a ru­mor mill. How­ever, the ru­mor mill is one busi­ness no com­mu­nity needs ac­cord­ing to David Bur­ton, civic com­mu­ni­ca­tion spe­cial­ist with Univer­sity of Mis­souri Ex­ten­sion.

“The ru­mor mill is run by vol­un­teers that spe­cial­ize in gos­sip, but the ru­mor mill doesn’t turn a profit or gen­er­ate any tax rev­enue,” said Bur­ton. “In fact, the only prod­uct made at the ru­mor mill re­sults in hurt lives. Our goal should be to put the ru­mor mill out of busi­ness.”

Tak­ing Per­sonal Re­spon­si­bil­ity

Putting the ru­mor mill out of busi­ness re­quires in­di­vid­ual ac­tions ac­cord­ing to Bur­ton. He offers three pri­mary ways to stop gos­sip in its track and help close the ru­mor mill.

First, when some­one starts to share gos­sip with you, just change the sub­ject.

“If a con­ver­sa­tion isn’t head­ing in a help­ful di­rec­tion, choose to be the one who changes its course by chang­ing the sub­ject,” said Bur­ton. “Noth­ing puts a stop to gos­sip like earn­ing a per­sonal rep­u­ta­tion for not spread­ing gos­sip.”

Sec­ond, say some­thing pos­i­tive about the per­son tar­geted by gos­sip.

“Re­mind peo­ple who are gos­sip­ing that the per­son they’re talk­ing about has said or done some­thing good by men­tion­ing some­thing spe­cific that’s pos­i­tive,” said Bur­ton.

Third, con­front gos­sip po­litely yet firmly. It can some­times be a good idea to point out miss­ing in­for­ma­tion, too.

“Stand up to peo­ple who are gos­sip­ing about some­one by say­ing that you don’t want to know about the story they’re try­ing to tell you,” said Bur­ton.

Psy­chol­o­gists say that when some­one is try­ing to in­volve you in gos­sip, the best thing to ask is: “Why are you telling me this?”

First, the ques­tion im­me­di­ately dis­rupts any self-serv­ing mo­tive. Sec­ond, it shows the gos­sip that the per­son they are talk­ing to is prob­a­bly none-too-happy about be­ing in­volved.

Neg­a­tive Im­pacts

Of Gos­sip

Ac­cord­ing to Bur­ton, there are sev­eral neg­a­tive im­pacts of gos­sip on an in­di­vid­ual that can also dam­age lead­ers or emerg­ing lead­ers in a com­mu­nity.

For starters, gos­sip will come back to hurt you per­son­ally.

“If you are spread­ing gos­sip about some­one there is a pretty good chance that they are shar­ing gos­sip about you,” said Bur­ton.

Earn­ing a rep­u­ta­tion as a gos­sip will iso­late you be­cause no one will trust you.

“In the long run, if you gos­sip, peo­ple will stop trust­ing you with in­for­ma­tion,” said Bur­ton.

Gos­sip does hurt other peo­ple. It can cause peo­ple to feel em­bar­rassed and ashamed. Be­ing a gos­sip also tar­nishes a per­son’s hon­esty and causes them to break prom­ises.

“Of­ten we end up spread­ing gos­sip about some­one just be­cause it makes a per­fect story and then we re­mem­ber we were asked not to re­peat the story,” said Bur­ton. “Break­ing a prom­ise im­pacts your rep­u­ta­tion and causes peo­ple not to trust you.”

Most im­por­tantly, gos­sip spreads lies, and that makes the ru­mor mill a toxic busi­ness.

“Just like the game of tele­phone, as a story gets re­peated things get added and even more false­hoods en­ter in,” said Bur­ton.

No Gos­sip Poli­cies

More busi­nesses are now tak­ing steps to stop a per­va­sive cul­ture of gos­sip be­cause it is detri­men­tal to the busi­ness. The same is true for a com­mu­nity.

“In a work­place and com­mu­nity, gos­sip de­stroys morale, cre­ates neg­a­tive en­ergy and stops peo­ple from be­com­ing a united team,” said Bur­ton.

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