How to Stop Rumors
Edited by Jack Herrick, Ben Rubenstein, Samasta, UK_Logician_2006 and 49 others
Never say "no comment". Rumors thrive in environments of uncertainty, and an ambiguous statement only fuels the fire. Don't play dumb, or pretend that you don't know what people are implying. Also, becoming defensive, depressed, or irritated will validate the rumor in most people's minds.
Don't confuse taking a stand for integrity with 'being defensive'. Since silence is not always so golden, it is good to have some things you can be prepared to say: "I do not believe that is true." or "This appears to be an unfounded (or vicious) rumor. Such things can do a lot of harm." Look them in the eye, when you say that.
Determine what lends credibility to the rumor, and stop it. People are more likely to tell rumors that are plausible, and that hinge on the existence of suggestive evidence. For instance, a rumor about a workplace affair will take off if the two people involved flirt in the office, or sit together every day at lunch. Once you determine what is feeding the rumor, take steps to remove it, if you can. Don't bother thinking "Well they shouldn't assume that" or "I should be able to do what I want without them thinking such and such." The point is, they do, and as long as you continue the behavior, the rumor will continue to spread
If you have credible evidence to the contrary, state "That simply cannot be true because...." and keep it simple.
Broadcast the rumor. Yes, that's right. Verbalize or post the rumor in a prominent way. By acknowledging the rumor, you're taking away some of its momentum. Rumors spread like wildfire because the people who spread them do so in order to gain social status, and that depends on them having the "inside scoop." If you broadcast their "inside information" then they won't have any motivation to spread the rumor. Everybody will already know!
Address the rumor-mongering comprehensively. Explain why the rumor exists, and who is benefiting from it. Then, create a new truth. Rumor specialists call this "stealing thunder" and if it's done early enough, it can stop a rumor in its tracks. The ideal situation is to introduce a new, rumor-worthy piece of information; one that people will gossip over, but which you have a lot more control over. Let's take the example of a celebrity who has rumors flying around about an affair; one way they can "steal the thunder" is by following all the steps above, then following up with the suggestion that the celebrity couple is trying to conceive a child.
If you do work out who has started the rumor it is best to avoid a harsh confrontation with them. If they have based it on something you told them and blown it out of all proportion then you should avoid talking to them about private affairs in future but remain civil with them, as conflict with them will cause the rumor to spread further.