Relational Advice on Rumors

Did you hear that President Obama is planning to increase the deficit by 10 trillion dollars per year? Not that Mitt Romney is any better: he’s planning to replace Obamacare with Romneycare, and instead of death panels, he’ll just put old people in front of firing squads.

Ah, election season, the time of year when rumors become the stuff of truth and Facebook explodes with rumors, snarkiness, and propaganda. How can you tell a rumor from the truth? Setting aside all the fact checking organizations that exist for the election, how can you tell in your daily life? Ana Marie Cox has some suggestions. First, consider the content of the statement. Is it verifiable fact, or supposition? This is hard when someone is recounting a conversation, ie:

“And then Helga told me that I wasn’t welcome at her house any more,” said Thelma.

Well, what were her actual words? Thelma has told you her interpretation of Helga’s statement. At this point, I would ask Thelma what Helga’s actual words were. Then I often get an answer like this:

“Well, what Helga actually said was, ‘I’m not comfortable with the fact that you’re carrying a loaded weapon in your purse and I have a 3 year old at home with me, so could you leave the gun in your car next time?'”

Communication consists of a sent message and an interpretation, and that is often where misunderstandings start and grow into anger, rumors, and hurt feelings. So if you aren’t an eyewitness, take what you hear with a grain of salt, especially if it’s not a verifiable fact.