MCD Partners

Memphis Daily News
Shut Down The Rumor Mill
July 27, 2017
By Dr. Mary C. McDonald

My father, Joe Crowley, a very wise man, always had a response whenever anyone said they heard a rumor, and wanted to pass it on. He always stopped them short by saying, “Those who don’t know, talk. Those who know, don’t talk.”

Some days I think, where is that advice when we need it, and who will give it?

Our information streams today seem more like rushing currents of misinformation, disinformation, fake news, rumors and lies. Oh yes, there is truth peppered in there too. But ferreting it out is not always easy. The “real story” is usually subject to the perceptions of those commenting on the “fake story.”

Just yesterday, when someone said to me that he “heard a rumor that…” I said to him, “Did you hear that from someone who knows?” He replied, “No.” So, I assured him it was just that, a rumor, and suggested he be patient and wait to hear the truth from someone who knows.

What is often lost in those rumors, innuendos and gossip, even if you dress it up as “fake news” or “social media,” is the damage it does in its wake. More often than not, reputations are ruined, careers are destroyed, a person’s good name or character is brought into question, and someone’s dreams are deferred before they can take root.

A rumor is nothing more than gossip with a purpose. Rumors manipulate the thoughts of others and usually serve a self-promoting need. Planting seeds of doubt about the ability, character or decisions of another is often a subtle tactic used to promote or protect oneself, or maintain a comfortable status quo.

In a leadership seminar I conducted not long ago, one of the participants shared an experience he had of being undermined by one of his employees who wanted his job. The employee started a rumor. It started small, just a few seeds of doubt about minor decisions the leader made. But as rumors often do, it took on a life of its own. Even though people doubted the rumor at first, envy won out. However, character trumped envy. The leader is now in a higher position, and the employee is working for someone else … who should watch his back.

So, when you hear a rumor, how do you decide what is true and what is false, what is fact and what is fake, what is real and what is rumor? Maybe you don’t. Maybe you just don’t repeat it. Maybe you just speak the truth. Maybe you just decide to live seeing the “big picture,” the interconnectedness of us all.

When you wound, you are wounded. When you heal, you are healed. When you tear down another, you are diminished. When you lift up another person, you are lifted. When you are committed to a character evolution, you come to understand that you are tethered, one to another, and what you say, or don’t say, frames your commitment to build up our society, one person at a time.

Contact Dr. Mary C. McDonald, a national education consultant, at 574-2956 or visit

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