April 19, 2008

If it's you they're talking about

Something Like Life
April 18, 2008

HOW many of us have been the subject of nasty rumors or malicious gossip? And how many of us knew what to do about it?

I must admit, I’ve been the subject of a few distasteful stories in my lifetime, touching on my personal life or my work, though none of them in the epic DJ Montano proportions. But then I don’t have a high-flying fast life which can open me and my actions to public scrutiny. Also, I don’t pretend to be something I’m not. (Like, I’m not above riding the MRT to Makati, but I will not shirk at an offer of a chauffeured ride home in a properly air-conditioned, luxuriously outfitted, leather-seated car.)

So what happens when you become the flavor of the month—or months—of your office or the society circle you move around in? Some of you may have been accused of sleeping your way to the top position of your company (or, worse, filching office supplies...how cheap naman!), or maybe having an affair with a married co-employee, or getting a job because of your familial connections?

Among your circle of friends, you suddenly hear that you’re supposedly a drug addict, an alcoholic, a sex pervert, are gay, or—worse—deep in debt! People begin talking about how much of a freeloader you are and how you attend events just to get hold of the goodie bag! Then your own so-called BFFs start turning on you. What to do?! What to do?!

In my own experience, I’ve realized that a lot of the gossip at work is primarily due to jealousy. Some people have a puffed-up opinion of themselves and basically think that they are better than you. And when they don’t get the promotion they’ve been secretly desiring and which was given to you instead, these losers can or will start rumors about you, or stir up critical talk about you.

Everything about you will be called into question. Nothing is safe. These inggiteros will discuss every single little detail of your life and joke about petty stuff, like the way you wear your pantyhose or that hideous dress you supposedly wore to the company cocktails last night.

But, seriously, the only way to quelch rumors of this nature is to basically shut up and continue doing your work well. True, it’s uncomfortable to be amid such unpleasantness day in and day out, especially when you’re trying to focus on doing a good job. But I am a stern believer that actions will always speak louder than words. And in the end, you will be vindicated.

The best thing to do is to play office politics. Try to get these losers on your side by involving them in projects. When they manage a good job or your projects are a success, recognize their efforts and watch them change their opinion about you. They will soon realize why the boss chose you and not them for that promotion.

I always tell my friends who are in such a bind that they are “celebrities,” and their underachieving colleagues at work will always envy them. I joke that it is a bane of their so-called celebrity status to be the subject of gossip all the time. The best thing to do is ignore the talk and just do the work.

But whether the negative issues about you are at work or touches your personal life, the best defense is really the truth. If you haven’t been seen stuffing your face with drugs or regularly beating up helpless people, then people won’t talk about it.

I remember one celebrity who was rumored to have made a punching bag of relatively unknown and basically defenseless kids, and had his friends gang up on them. I had firsthand knowledge of one of his victims as this kid was close to my friend’s daughter. My friend’s daughter told me the victim had already been beaten up by this neanderthal and his gang at school once before. And to think the goon had actually wanted to run for mayor! Ang kapal! So in his case, where there’s smoke, there’s fire.

(Funny, though, how rumors about the idiocies and odious habits of several celebrities and high-society flunkies center around just one club at The Fort. Hmmm...it must be the water.)

Now what if the gossip about you is actually true? What do you do?

Well, all you have to do is grin and bear it. Nothing will ever remain a secret in this society. People in these parts treat gossip as part and parcel of entertainment. Any rumor about someone popular and his secret life uncovered is much better than the whole of Marimar.

So whatever indecent acts you’ve been practicing, or whatever odious behavior you subscribe to, you will be found out. After all, we live in a small world where the next person ready to hear some juicy stories about you is just a text or e-mail away.

And if you don’t want to be talked about in a scandalous fashion, then behave. Keep a low profile. Stop acting so foolishly and calling attention to yourself. It’s really your fault for living so large and loudly.

I recall a friend being asked by a victim of some malicious gossip, advice about what to do to handle the nasty talk about him. One of the distasteful rumors being circulated about the victim was apparently the size of his, uhm, appendage. His text to my friend went something like, “By the way, the rumors are not true. I’m a medium.” To which my friend texted back, “But (guy's name), I told everyone you’re large!” Stop being defensive!

Okay, so what if the rumor about you is totally untrue and already destroying your reputation? Then go to the source of the gossip—if you know who it is—and talk to him or her about it. Find out why he or she started this rumor about you and see how you can settle things. Don’t be confrontational or threaten to sue every bone in his/her body.

You cannot underestimate the power of communication. Sometimes all it takes is an open channel between two people and a sincere effort to settle differences. Be honest, fortright and reconciliatory.

The best way to handle gossip of course, is to avoid it. Keep your nose clean and your feet firmly planted on the ground.

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