What Can I Do If Someone Is Spreading Rumours?
At The Diana Award, we define bullying behaviour as:
"repeated, negative behaviour that is intended to make others feel upset, uncomfortable, or unsafe".
There are three different types of bullying behaviour: verbal, indirect, and physical.
A rumour is ‘a piece of information, or a story, that people talk about, but that may not be true’ (Oxford Learner’s Dictionaries).
This might include making up and spreading stories around school that are unkind. It can also include repeatedly talking about someone behind their back or posting such things online.
Even though rumours are not said directly to the person, repeatedly spreading them can still make that person feel upset, uncomfortable, or unsafe, and is an example of indirect bullying behaviour.
What do I do if someone is spreading rumours about me?
Spreading rumours about someone is unkind behaviour and can cause someone to feel humiliated and upset. So, what can you do if this behaviour happens to you?
- Do not retaliate
If you find out that people are spreading rumours about you that are untrue or unkind, it can really hurt your feelings. You might want to immediately confront them or start spreading rumours to get back at them. However, retaliating isn’t a solution and could make things worse. Try to handle the situation in a calm and positive manner; if you feel comfortable and safe enough to do so, you might want to calmly ask them to stop talking about you behind your back.
- Don’t suffer in silence
It’s really important that you report the behaviour to your Anti-Bullying Ambassadors or a trusted adult so that you can get the support you need. If you feel anxious or nervous about this, you could ask a friend (or an Anti-Bullying Ambassador) to come with you to speak with a teacher, family member or other trusted adult. Never suffer in silence. A problem shared is a problem halved.
- Remember that the rumour won’t last forever!
If a rumour is going around school, you might feel like everyone is talking about you and that the rumour is never going to end. That isn’t true – although it might not feel like it in the moment, people aren’t going to be talking about you forever and the situation will be resolved.
The best way to deal with it is to report it to a trusted adult or teacher. They can help you decide what actions to take and support you through the process. You can go up to any teacher or Anti-Bullying Ambassador, or also use the reporting tools that your school has in place, such as postboxes or email inboxes.
The Diana Award also has the Diana Award Crisis Messenger Service, which is a free, 24/7 crisis support line. If you are a young person in crisis, you can text DA to 85258 and a trained volunteer will listen to how you’re feeling and help you take the next steps towards feeling better.
- Practice self-care
Hearing a rumour about yourself that is unkind or untrue can negatively impact your self-esteem. That is why it is important to spend time doing activities that bring you joy and remind you how amazing you are. Whether it be reading a new book, writing about how you’re feeling, or going out with people you care about; it is important you make the time to focus on your happiness.
At The Diana Award, we also have support articles and resources that include a plethora of suggestions about self-care activities, such as an article on appreciating nature and a whole host of resources on looking after your mental health.
What can Anti-Bullying Ambassadors do to help stop the spread of rumours around school?
- Be an Upstander
If you hear a person saying untrue and/or unkind comments about someone else without them present, be an Upstander and challenge this harmful behaviour.
If you feel comfortable enough to address the person saying it, explain why their comments could be seen as hurtful and that it is not nice to speak about someone behind their back. Remember not to speak confrontationally or aggressively. Or, if you’d prefer not to directly address the person, you could report it to a trusted adult or teacher. It can be daunting to report bullying behaviour but it’s important to remember that, by telling a trusted adult what you saw/heard, they will be able to then support your peer and put a stop to the behaviour.
- Run a workshop on the topic of rumours
If rumours are a big problem in your school, you could organise a workshop on this topic.
Your workshop could include games like ‘Telephone’, to highlight the harmful nature of rumours as a source of false information.
‘Telephone’ is when one person starts with a word and whispers it to someone else. This person then whispers it to another person and this process continues until the last person receives the word. You can then compare the initial word to the one at the end – this game highlights how information changes as it is spread, and becomes further away from the truth, in the same way that a rumour can spread harmful, false information about someone.
- Focus on online safety
If rumours are spread online, such as via text messages, gaming sites, or social media, it is a type of cyberbullying behaviour called denigration. This is sharing information about another person that is false or damaging, sharing photos of someone for people to make fun of, spreading fake rumours and gossip (Everything You Need To Know About Cyberbullying).
Maybe you want to create a poster or video on what to do if you experience denigration, such as how to report or block on all the different social media or gaming platforms. The Diana Award has a resource on blocking and reporting available here that might be useful.
You can also hold discussions or assemblies based on related topics, such as the concept of fake news. Fake news is ‘false stories that appears to be news, spread on the internet or using other media, usually created to influence political views or as a joke’ (Cambridge Dictionary).
Much like rumours, fake news is damaging because it can spread false content or misinformation about people. As an Anti-Bullying Ambassador team, you can run sessions in form time where you look at how you can tell the difference between fact and fiction, why we should stop sharing it, and how to report fake news when you spot it online! We have a resource on how to spot and stop fake news that could help guide discussions available for download here.
- How to help your child cope with gossip (Very Well Family)
- Understanding the impact of rumours and gossip (Very Well Family)
For young people