Coord 261: Rumor Mongering

MES is an organization that is based around stories and dramatic storytelling.  Members’ strengths in these areas can also be an out of character weakness. Out of play, members are expected to treat each other with respect and honesty.   Part of being respectful involves not spreading stories.  Rumor mongering can go from a seemingly innocent comment about something someone said, to hurt feelings and quite a bit of drama.

We must be clear that there is NO easy way to deal with this issue. The best we can do is be honest and above board if we have to confront it as a coordinator. As a coordinator, you can communicate with all involved parties.  Take measured and targeted actions to prevent further issues and be prepared to initiate disciplinary actions if it continues or gets worse.

What is Rumor Mongering

The definition of rumor-mongering is “spreading rumors, often maliciously.”

There is a fine line between spreading rumors and talking about a story. Normally, members speaking about a situation view the story in regards to the manner they see it and can have trouble seeing another point of view. This is what makes it so hard to solve.

In the previous version of the Handbook, Rumor Mongering was a DA-able offense. The concept was over-simplified and there were cases where it was used maliciously against others when people were upset with discussions. In the current version of the handbook, “Rumor Mongering” was removed for this reason. In it’s place the following was stated on page 17:

  • All members deserve to be treated fairly.
  • All members must treat each other respectfully.
  • Conflicts can only be resolved when they are brought to the attention of everyone involved.

The detailed definition of malicious rumors does fall under this category. The key here is malicious intent.

Types of Rumor Mongering

Rumor mongering fits a wide range of things from Gossip to Griping.  Gossip is the most destructive form of rumor mongering.  Gossip, especially juicy tidbits of another member’s private life, can spread through a domain like wildfire.  Gossip that is fueled by bad feelings and hurtful intent has the potential to lead to more volatile situations.  The members involved in spreading the gossip need to understand that they are not just hurting one another,  they are hurting the club as a whole.

Voicing concern  about how a scene was handled or about how another player acts out of play is not necessarily rumor mongering if it’s done with the correct people, with the intent to solve a problem.  Spreading a member’s complaint about a scene however can become rumor mongering when it blow a situation out of all proportion. It can however cause hurt feelings, drama and a negative atmosphere within a domain.  Complaints should be addressed with the proper person, either the member or an officer, and not with random buddy who will pass along the gripe as gossip. You must be careful, however, to not create an atmosphere in your domain where people don’t feel comfortable talking to their friends.

Sometimes, rumor mongering is just as simple as a miscommunication or misunderstanding that is then repeated and spread.

“Maliciously” is the key word. Comments, discussions and feedback said in anger are detrimental to what already may be a difficult situation.

Dealing with Hurt Feelings

It doesn’t matter if the gossip is true or false; it can still result in hurt feelings.   Feelings are valid and do matter.  Don’t dismiss a member’s hurt feelings.

There are a number of different ways to approach the problem. Some involve a discussion which leads to a solution, while others require both parties to walk away and take a deep breath, realizing that not everything can be solved.

If discussion is going to happen, the first thing that is often required is a cool down period. If communication is going to happen it should be approached with a calmer mind. No discussion can succeed if it takes place in anger.

A cool down period however, is not always the answer. Sometimes players use this time to become angrier with the situation. As a coordinator you need to understand the people you are working with and the situation involved to know if a cool down period will help or hinder the situation.

If the two members are unable to work out their issues through open discussion, then mediation with an impartial third party may be required to address the situation. If you are able to find a trained mediator, that is the best case scenario. Mediation, if done incorrectly can be more damaging to a situation.

Remember that every member deserves to be treated in a respectful manner.  Getting all involved parties to abide by this simple rule will go a long way towards healing those hurt feelings.

For Players: Involving Coordinator Staff

If you suspect rumor mongering, try to talk to the person spreading the rumors first.  If that doesn’t work, you can go to their coordinator with the information you have.  If the problem you are having involves your coordinator, then take the issue to the next level coordinator in your chain.

As members of MES we are given resources and among those are our coordinator staff.  Rumor mongering is one of the many issues that coordinators deal with and work to resolve.  By informing the officer of the situation, the coordinator is better able to address the problem and hopefully keep the drama and hurt feelings to a minimum.   A coordinator can’t fix a problem if they don’t know about it.

If it is warranted, a coordinator can issue a letter of counseling to the member regarding the situation. If the problem persists, the issue can be pushed up to the Regional Coordinator for a Disciplinary Action investigation.

One thing to keep in mind is that no one likes feeling like they are being tattled on. It may be more productive in the long run to approach the other member first and explain that you feel there is a problem that you can not solve together, and ask them to approach the coordinator with you to work on the problem.

How to Stop Rumor Mongering Before it Starts

Stopping the rumors before they start will keep feelings from being hurt in the first place.  Recognizing the sources and causes for the rumor mongering is essential in doing this.   Here are some recommendations you can make to members to stop rumor mongering before it starts:

  • Don’t get angry and try not to take the rumors personally.
  • If you want to keep your personal information private, then refrain from telling others about your personal business.

As a coordinator, the following are some techniques that can be used to stop rumor mongering:

  • Keep a firm stance that rumor mongering is not tolerated and is hurtful to the entire club.
  • Go to the source of the rumor and talk to them.
  • Set an example.  Don’t pass along gossip when you hear it and encourage others to ignore rumor mongering.
  • Create an environment that promotes cooperation rather than competition among the members and try to get them to work together on a project such as a social or charity.
  • Remind the members of their common interests, hobbies and goals to reinforce a friendlier dynamic within the club.

How to Get Past the Rumors and Move Forward

After the feelings have been hurt and words have been said that cannot be taken back, we have to pick up the pieces and move forward.  Sometimes simply giving opposing parties a little time apart will help things to move forward.  Discussion does not always solve a problem. Understanding and realizing this can make a situation tolerable, to keep both parties able to focus on their other focuses in MES. MES members are not forced to be friends, but we are required to be respectful.  So long as both parties treat each other in a respectful manner the past can be left behind.  Here are some other things that will help in getting members to move forward:

  • Once an issue has been dealt with, do not bring it up again in the future.
  • If you can, find something that the two members have in common to promote friendliness.
  • If you realize there is no working solution, advise the players to step away from the problem and don’t approach it again.
  • Don’t condon the continuation of the rumor mongering.  If players are set on trying to “get back” at the other person as soon as a bit of gossip comes their way, then they will find themselves right back where they started.
  • The blame game pushes them back.  Continuing to place blame on others for a situation will keep them from moving forward.  Advise players to worry less about whose fault it is and leave what happened behind them.

There will be times when moving forward will seem impossible.  Without the ability to push past issues once they are settled, the club as a whole will suffer.  Learn when to walk away and when a solution can be solved. Put forth the effort and be the bigger person.