What would you do if you felt you were the subject of untrue gossip?
August 19, 2011 6:36 PM   Subscribe

What would you do if you feel you're being gossiped about?

A year ago I resigned from a social club, because there was ALOT of gossip. Alot of trashing of people, constant drama. It was a drinking club on the water- I liked the idea of being part of a club, and the water- so I joined- but only 2 years later, I resigned because I was just constantly feeling a vibe of angry drinkers. gossip.

So I quit, and I distanced myself. Got involved in sports, did not drink nearly as much- got into shape. Felt like, though I miss these people at times- because there was fun- overall, it was psychologically far less draining to be away from it. And the feeling that I could never really trust anyone- because of the constant gossip that was tossed around. Really, character assasination stuff.

So- it's been a year- no real contact- And I went to a birthday party there, and that night this one woman decided to tell me that people used to talk about me in a bigoted, anti-semetic way. Which is weird, because I am not particularly religious, and I am friendly to EVERYONE. Told this person that I really have no bad feelings toward the club, and I'm over it and I really don't want to hear that people were talking about me. It's in the past and it's not worth it.

But THEN last week, out of the blue, just 2 weeks after this party- I got a call- and was told that people were saying I was going around town to bars (which I don't really go out to) accusing certain members of being bigoted. THis same person spread it around.

My decision rather than confront it- aside from telling the person who called me that it's completely and utterly untrue- was to distance myself. No contact, no nothing. But I think people are mad at me. I have some acquaintances there I play sports with and I am feeling paranoid that they might believe some of this crap, and I am just so upset that I worked so hard to remove myself from all that worthless stupid drama and in JUST ONE NIGHT, I'm literally dragged back in, name besmirched.

What should I do? I don't want to ask "ARE YOU MAD AT ME?" but yet, I do. I promise you, I said not a word that this person said I did. She brings the drama but I can't deal. It really makes me paranoid. I know I shouldn't care, but I do.
posted by Fenshwee to Human Relations (25 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
People who bring the drama are to be avoided. You can't (and shouldn't) be trying to run around putting out the fires this woman flames. Honestly, people who meet you will realize within instants that what she's said is totally untrue, so live your truth and let her lies die and fall like autumn leaves.
posted by LN at 6:42 PM on August 19, 2011 [3 favorites]

Avoid, avoid, avoid. This isn't a situation you can resolve or better by cross swords with anyone. If anyone should come to you about it, tell them the truth as briefly as possible and then change the subject.

And you know, if you miss the social aspect of this former club of yours, there must be lots of other groups you could join that would not have this kind of nasty dynamic.
posted by orange swan at 6:43 PM on August 19, 2011 [3 favorites]

It sounds to me that the person at the party was looking for drama. You handled it like an adult and didn't give that person the drama fix they needed, so they went back to the club and told everyone that you called them all bigots.

Don't worry about what they're saying about you at the club. The people you're hanging out with now probably know how full of crap they all are and won't believe the gossip.
posted by TooFewShoes at 6:43 PM on August 19, 2011 [2 favorites]

When you hear gossip, remember two things.

First, if this person will gossip to you, they will gossip about you.

Second, what a person says about other people discloses more about themselves than about the subject of conversation.

Other people may have figured those things out already, and if they haven't, they might in the future. You can mention either of those things when someone calls and asks why you've been gossiping about them, in addition to calmly stating that you don't participate. It may or may not help.

Continue to avoid this group, while maintaining whatever keeps you in shape. Consider joining a social group that is less bitchy. Maybe beach volleyball, or bar trivia. Try out a bunch of things, but at the first whiff of drama, quietly slide out, because you're absolutely right. It's not worth the stress of the drama.
posted by bilabial at 6:44 PM on August 19, 2011 [8 favorites]

It sounds to me like this helpful person who keeps telling you that people are gossiping about you is quite the busybody herself. Going out of your way to say "hey, so and so is talking about you behind your back" is just another form of gossip.

Continue hanging out with your sports buddies (as you have something in common with them aside from just the past drinking club membership) and don't spend time with the rest of them. Address specific points only as they come up (i.e. if someone asks you directly about it) and don't speculate on what people could or might be saying.

These people sound boring, obnoxious, and drama-filled. Sounds like you're doing the right thing by finding activities outside of the group. Keep it that way.
posted by phunniemee at 6:45 PM on August 19, 2011 [4 favorites]

I have some acquaintances there I play sports with and I am feeling paranoid that they might believe some of this crap, and I am just so upset that I worked so hard to remove myself from all that worthless stupid drama and in JUST ONE NIGHT, I'm literally dragged back in, name besmirched.

Here's what happened to me. At one time during college, I had this one friend who was constantly seeking drama and didn't really know how to get along with others, while all my other friends at that time were very normal and sane. My other friends rarely hung out with this one person and they never saw me do anything crazy.

Well, one time I did do something crazy and I happened to do it in front of the drama seeking friend. I begged her not to tell anyone, and guess what she turned around and did? The very next time she was at a large gathering where all my other friends would be (and I wasn't there), it was the very first thing she blurted out. She even punched it up for effect.

And nobody believed her.

People even told me afterwards, "X told this crazy story about you last weekend. It was so weird, and I didn't understand what she would thinking. You'd think if you were going to make up a lie about someone, you'd make it believable."

So. Here's what I draw from that, for your situation: comport yourself well among your other friends. Behave in such a way that they would never believe it if they heard crazy gossip about you. If you do this, anyone who tries to spread crazy gossip about you will look like the crazy one. And stay away from all these people in your drinking club, they ALL sound like bad news.
posted by Ashley801 at 6:46 PM on August 19, 2011 [14 favorites]

People create a sensation for a reason. They want the attention that you had. Their jealousy is so strong that they do the most illogical thing in the world...fabricate stories. You already know that they are not the people you want to associate with, just ignore it. I know, it isn't easy. Take it from someone who has been a victim of gossip. Here is a quick story...I own a business with my mother, my father would come in once in a while to hang out with us for the day. People started a rumor that I was having an affair with the owner's husband. The owner is my mother and her husband is my father. REALLY?! That's just one of many.

Ignore it. It will go away. You know the truth. There is no reason why you have to defend yourself to anyone. If they believe in those lies, let them. People who truly know you will know that the rumors are untrue. If you start getting upset, you let those who start the rumor win. If you have no reaction, they will move onto something else.

One more thing...STOP GOING TO THAT CLUB.
posted by Yellow at 6:47 PM on August 19, 2011 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: I'm not looking for a new club, I have a full life. Busy and good. But I have texted my tennis partner (and club member) twice since that happened asking if he wanted to play tennis and I've gotten oddly short responses of no. Dying to ask if he's mad at me but I can't. He can't be mad0 I didn't do anything- but I have this anxious feeling.

I have a logical understanding that if he believes what he hears he's not my friend, and yet, I feel unsettled about it. I have no real proof that his saying he doesn't want to play has anything to do with all of this. But like I said, I am paranoid.
posted by Fenshwee at 6:49 PM on August 19, 2011

I think it all depends if you need any of the people at the club or their contacts. If you don't need them and if you are pretty sure that the vile things they say will not hurt you then just walk away and forget all about them. If there is a real possibility that the person's gossip can really hurt you then go to the places he/sh goes and make a scene. Just speak out in the middle of the party and say "Excuse me can I say something - can everyone listen for a bit? This person is saying such and such about me and I want you all to know that it's a complete line of crap. Furthermore she has come to me and tried to say bad things about people here and I turned him/her away. If you have any questions about any of this see me and I'll be glad to chat".... or something to that effect. When Mr/Ms Gossip comes to you to complain about your speech tell him/her to go fuck him/herself and turn your back on him/her and walk away.
posted by Poet_Lariat at 6:51 PM on August 19, 2011 [3 favorites]

Don't feel paranoid about your tennis partner. He would confront you if he was upset. It could be that he is just busy. If what you suspect is true and he is mad because he heard and believed the gossip, then find a new tennis partner. You don't want people like that in your life. Fill your world with people who are your fans, not people you have to win over. Life is too short to work so hard! Besides, I am sure there are many people here will be happy to volley with you. ; )
posted by Yellow at 6:56 PM on August 19, 2011 [2 favorites]

From here, there's a very important bit of wisdom:
One of the principles I live my life by is that I don't care what people say behind my back. If you say something nasty about me when I'm not around, my opinion is that the tree didn't make a peep. If you don't say it to my face, you either like me too much to hurt my feelings, which is fine, or you're afraid of me, which is also fine, or you're just not in a position to tell me to my face, which is perfect. The fact is people only have to like me enough to pay me, fuck me, and serve me beer,1 and if they have something else on their mind they're welcome to keep it to themselves or repeat it like a bad vacation story when I'm out of earshot.
Life is so very short. Take a breath. Let it out. Ponder the fact that that breath was one out of a finite number. Hopefully large, but you never know--large or small number, it only goes down. Spending any of them on other peoples' drama is just not remotely worth it by any rational calculus.
posted by Drastic at 6:57 PM on August 19, 2011 [39 favorites]

These people sound terrible.

Ignore them. Get new friends and move on.
posted by Miko at 7:02 PM on August 19, 2011

Response by poster: So true!
posted by Fenshwee at 7:16 PM on August 19, 2011

Amusingly enough, I had a similar thing recently. A group of friends from 20 years ago, when we all were young, has more or less stayed in touch. I talk to my exes now and then, but haven't really kept up with the other folks. I was told the other day that "many believe" that the father of my daughter was not my then-husband, but some other guy, who just to make this more awesome, was a different race than my daughter and I, and who in fact I never even slept with. It tickled the hell out of me that after 20 years people are still talking about me, and -- since my life is, in reality, completely boring -- making up interesting stuff, stuff more in keeping with the promise of my youth. I used to be wild and fun, I *should* have crazy secrets and scandals, and it's kind of cool that people I no longer know still want to think of me that way.

In my actual life, the life that doesn't include those folks, all I ask is that people are nice to me to my face. The rest of the time, hey, go nuts. Glad to be of service.
posted by pH Indicating Socks at 7:23 PM on August 19, 2011 [2 favorites]

I've written it before, and I want you to think deeply on this:

Happy people don't do bad things.


The gossip(s) sound like troubled souls. You sound like someone with a happy life. I bet you showed up to this party looking and feeling great, right? I can see how this made you a target, can you?

I wouldn't worry about your current acquaintances. The gossip will (and likely has already) bounced off of you because it probably doesn't seem at all like something you might do. It's not true, so stop feeling guilty! If someone said you were a turtle or a chair, no one would believe it because they can see you are a human being. This is the same thing.

Block the guilty party from your social networks, don't take their calls ever again. Delete, avoid, ignore.

For the record this was totally predictable given the dynamic of that club. Never set foot there again.

Delete. Block. Ignore. Forget.
posted by jbenben at 8:03 PM on August 19, 2011 [5 favorites]

Call tennis buddy instead of texting. Try to read if there's any strangeness. If there is, ask if you've done something to offend him/her. When they say "no" say "that's a relief, I heard there's a rumor going around about me and its pretty unsettling. Anyway, when can we meet for tennis?"

If they ask "what rumor" you can say "I'd rather not say--even saying it out loud upsets me. I just have to have faith that anyone who knows me would find it ridiculous. Anyway, life's too short!
posted by vitabellosi at 8:22 PM on August 19, 2011 [4 favorites]

What would you do if you feel you're being gossiped about?

Arch an eyebrow, square your shoulders and turn your back. Find new friends / tennis partners. There is a world out there of adults who don't snipe each other like this.
posted by motsque at 8:36 PM on August 19, 2011 [2 favorites]

Being gossiped about? Generally that's only done by those who are jealous in some way. Ignore it, but wear it like a badge of honor. Just don't contribute to it.
posted by brownrd at 9:02 PM on August 19, 2011

That paranoid feeling? Perfectly normal. I myself and so many people I know have a tendency to project that awful sensation of believing that someone else is mad at me even though I didn't do anything. The quote that Drastic cites above cannot be repeated enough. It feels so true deep down in my bones - what other people think about me is none of my goddamn business. More likely than not, they are far too busy with their own lives to invest energy getting pissed about mine.
In short, stupid-ass drama is stupid. Ignore that shit, your tennis partner isn't mad at you, if I were a betting person, I would put money on it.
posted by msali at 9:29 PM on August 19, 2011

If there are individuals you see and whose opinion of yourself you value, talk to them individually. Who cares about the rest of them?
posted by DoubleLune at 9:46 PM on August 19, 2011 [1 favorite]

I have a lifelong experience that ignoring gossip and steering free of the drama not only makes you resistant, but somehow seems to reduce the gossip, too. Unless it's a matter of business interests or professional turf, people do this only to those who also play the same game, who care about knowing what's going on. Don't play the game, quit caring.
posted by Namlit at 12:53 AM on August 20, 2011 [1 favorite]

I had someone like this in my life - she'd tell me people were saying something about me and then she'd tell the other people that I said something about them (but I didn't!).

Maybe people believed things she said at first but I think pretty much everyone knows that she is someone who enjoys stirring up trouble for her own purposes. It's too bad she chose to go into real estate instead of writing fiction.

I totally cut this person out of my life, blocked their emails and phone calls, and was much happier. When she called me from an unlisted number I just said I didn't want to talk to her. She went and told people outrageous lies about me but by that time no one believed her. She moved on to a new group of people where they didn't know her BS and she's probably worn out her welcome with them by now too.

People will most likely realize that your gossip troublemaker is just that, and ignore her. You should ignore her too. Easier said than done, I know.
posted by Melsky at 2:22 AM on August 20, 2011 [1 favorite]

Two things that I don't think anyone else has addressed yet.

people used to talk about me in a bigoted, anti-semetic way. Which is weird, because I am not particularly religious, and I am friendly to EVERYONE.

Anti-Semitism is not about religion, although it can be if religion is convenient to the anti-Semite. There are some good articles about it here (where it's defined as "the prejudice, discrimination, and hatred of Jews as a national, ethnic, religious, or racial group.") Also it has really, really, nothing to do with how nice you are or are not. (That said, I think that one gossipy woman may have entirely made that part up, as she made up the part about you accusing people.)

Secondly, I just looked at your location. Seriously, is that where you live? That whole area is mean-nasty-subtle-gossip-spreading-competitive-biyotch central. I gew up one town over. When I left, at 17, I couldn't undersatnd why strangers on the street were being nice for no reason and not glaring at me. There are obnoxious people everywhere, of course, and there are nice people where you live too. That means you have to sort of deal with people like her (and your tennis partner, if he in fact is dissing you), but you do not have to worry about them. You absolutely can be confident that what she's doing is not personal - it's not you, it's all her. Be wary of people like her, and pity them - they are unhappy and pathetic and jealous of you in ways they can't even understand - but don't waste a minute of your time being friends with them and don't let what they say have any effect on you.

Also, as a result of my living there as long as I did, I know you can be paranoid that everyone hates you but actually not give a damn all at the same time. It's complicated but totally possible! And the not giving a damn part, once you get it down, can be really fun.
posted by DestinationUnknown at 4:02 AM on August 20, 2011 [3 favorites]

Yes, I was in a similar situation once and tried to confront the gossip starter- bad move. It ended up just giving her new launching off points for fabrications about me. And making me almost obsessive about it all.

To tell the truth I don't even know that she was conscious of her manipulations, I think I brought out a deep seeded insecurity in her that she didn't recognize. So steer clear, any involvement will just make you crazy- you can't reason with people that are intent on tearing you down.
posted by abirdinthehand at 4:24 AM on August 20, 2011

Your remaining friends who are still involved in the club are still involved in the club. Unfortunately, that means that the dynamic of gossip, trashing people, constant drama, and angry drinkers is not repellent to them in the way that it is for you. There are lots of reasons that an individual may overlook such a dynamic -- they may be so normalized to gossip they don't know another life is possible; they may not be good at identifying the "drama bringers"; they may enjoy the drama and not particularly care if its an honest and fair way to get their kicks.

Ultimately, people who are still enmeshed in that group dynamic don't see it or don't mind it. They may not be drama bringers, but they're still drama drinkers. There are lots of people in this world who aren't drama drinkers -- who make judgements about people based on their own observations and the observations of people of character, not based on the ramblings of gossips.

The drama bringers are still capable of enmeshing you in the group dynamic because you are afraid that people will listen to them. I know this is a painful experience, but, if your remaining friends start cutting you because of the rumors, you now know that they're drama drinkers. Don't bother chasing them.

And also by the way, I really feel for you. I've been poisonously gossiped about, and it's just crushing and crazy-making and you keep believing that you can change it by behaving well. I like to think of rumor mills as being like abusive partners: you have to just. get. out.

Personal story: this one time this guy who didn't know me well overheard me saying something about a friend's presentation to a mutual mentor. He didn't hear the full conversation, and thought I was slagging on the friend to a mentor (I wasn't.) Said guy went and told the friend. . . who said, "I'm sure that if [endy] has anything to say to me, she'll say it herself." This is how a non-drama-drinker behaves. (I learned about this from the gossip himself, who told me about it because we'd become friends, and he wanted me to know. He may be a bit of a drama bringer himself, though that's the only instance I can actually think of.)
posted by endless_forms at 7:53 AM on August 20, 2011 [1 favorite]

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