It is terrifying how quickly bad news can spread-especially at a location where there are theoretically no mobile devices and everyone is working all day. Now if it’s a rumor that we are amazing and that we poop gold nuggets-we might let that one slide. Generally thought, it’s the BAD rumors you have to quash if possible.

The first part is reacting to hearing it. The first time you might be caught off-guard. That’s why I like to use a five-second filter or channel Thomas Jefferson  My partner takes a deep breath and smiles.  My filter is excellent but it has boundaries,  in twenty minutes it may not hold. But in the moment one must step back, disassociate and react calmly or with humor. You should acknowledge the rumor, thank the person for telling you (even if you suspect the source might be invested/poisonous) and let them know you’ll be aware and do your best to deal with it. And that’s all you owe the person who came to you.  In fact, it’s better not to act immediately (I’ll cite an example later in this entry when one shouldn’t wait) but ruminate on it a bit.

“Your reputation is in the hands of others. That’s what the reputation is. You can’t control that. The only thing you can control is your character.” 
― Wayne W. Dyer

Now to do damage control-I usually do a “check in” with friends and associates and get a more balanced view. If you run a group, it’s important that everyone is on the same page. You put together an action plan-we will say this, we will not say this and give your folks a unified face.  You will need to address the rumor point by point and have logical ways to refute them. And you may need to bring it up yourself to key people (often the OTHER gossipmongers)  and make light of it or stare it down like your cat planning to steal your sandwich. Be firm, and calm, not angry. The worst thing to do is to become upset or start counter-rumors. DO NOT “fight fire with fire” because then, you could catch your own ass on fire.  If it’s something really damaging –you may need to go to organizers or influential people in the community. You can start with something like
“It’s come to my attention that; [x] and I would like to address any concerns with [y] and [z] and if you have any questions or concerns, please be sure to come directly to me and we can discuss them.”

By heading it off in this way, you are slowly leeching the power of the rumor and the rumor-starter and bringing everyone back into the reality of doing safe, good business. Don’t be afraid to enlist people to help you. I have had defense come from unexpected quarters because we have a reputation as levelheaded people and these allies were in places we didn’t know they needed to be.

Some people say that one should confront the rumor-starter. I have found that in 99.9 percent of these instances, the person will lie about having started such a thing and if anything, I’ve made them feel important by recognizing them. I’ll acknowledge the rumor and I may even subtly drop hints that such actions won’t be tolerated, but the person or persons don’t deserve even notoriety. I’m still a bit of a pill and am not above some petty social embarrassment, but it’s always about making the statement of living the better life rather than playing at equal vitriol.

And now some concrete examples. At one point  the story that we were fighting unsafely- rumors that cropped up like cockroaches. It got to the point where we had a checklist of “How?’ Where?” “Why?” that could be traced back to one really terrible human being. In fact, over the years a number of strangers have come up and apologized for believing and spreading that. And folks, that didn’t happen overnight, it took YEARS and a whole lot of taking the higher path and really didn’t take away all of the sting. Even now, some people will not accept all of the logic and facts that have piled up because that would require admitting that they were wrong.

A second example was a fire breathing incident –our firebreather had some stray hairs that resulted in a burnt cheek. Even though the performer re-did the trick immediately after, the rumors were that “someone had blown up on stage!” So we had to walk through the faire, chat with people, be seen by vendors and then do THE WHOLE SHOW-including the fire breathing again that night.  And still hear stories about “The guy who blew up on stage!” (It was one disappointed Fire Marshall)

Accept that the truth will not be accepted by everyone because it would spoil a good story. There are faires that *every single time* I have to point out that the rumor mill that names, places, dates and actual events are completely wrong and I’m told I “spoil the fun.” That “fun” impacts my bottom line so soak me in salt water and christen me a wet noodle.

And although it is hurtful to accept, some people just spread malice.  There isn’t a rhyme or reason other than they need to strike out-often at innocent  or undeserving targets.  The why isn’t important but making sure that you take care of you and yours is the primary goal.  I’m not saying you aren’t entitled to feel hurt, angry and betrayed-that’s healthy. But  rumors are vapor, in time they dissipate and you will outlast them.