What to do if someone is spreading lies on Facebook

December 12, 2012

McTavish-AnneLOGODEAR ANNE: I’m in middle school, and my best friend and I had a fight. She then posted lies about me on Facebook and because she’s supposed to be my BFF, everyone believes the lies. Can I post lies about her?

A: Fighting with a friend always hurts, and it’s worse when that fight goes public. Posting lies would be like throwing gasoline on a fire. That will only make things worse. What you want to do is put out the fire.

But putting out the fire of attack gossip is like catching greased pigs – difficult to do. And when the attack gossip is on social media, it’s very difficult. Your goal is to have your friend and others lose interest in the fight.

Step one. Dampen the fire by making a post on your own Facebook page. Keep it short, simple, and to the point. For example, ‘My friend and I did have a fight, but it was not like she described it. To me, it was private and should stay that way.’

Step two takes time. Don’t add fuel to the fire; let it die. Don’t respond to any further attacks. It takes a lot of strength to say no to a fight, especially when you’re being unfairly attacked.

If you want to work things out with your friend, arrange to meet them in a public place and have each of you bring one other person. Talk with your friend and try to work things out. This would put the fire out.

I’m sorry that you’re going through this. Don’t go through it on your own. Your friends, parents and the school counsellor are all on the scene and know the dynamics. As them if they have any suggestions as to how you can handle this. You will be able to handle this.

DEAR ANNE: What can I do about lies that are being spread about me?

A: It depends on what type of lie it is. When we hear that someone lied, we usually think it means they deliberately told something they knew was factually false. That’s only one type of lie. You can also lie by misrepresenting or distorting the facts. People lie to trigger a specific response in others.

If you ask me if I took the last cookie and I answer that I didn’t, I’ve lied. I’ve told you something factually false. I lied so you wouldn’t think I’m greedy. I want you to think well of me.

Imagine that we’re planning a party. You ask me if all the invitations went out, and I say yes. Technically that was correct since all the invitations went out. I just didn’t mention that I threw invitations to people I don’t like into the garbage. All the invitations went out – some to people, and some into the garbage. But I still lied to you. What I said was true, but it wasn’t the whole story.

When the lie is made up of false facts or distorted facts or incomplete facts, you counter the lie by telling the facts all the facts. It may take some time to counteract the lie. Resist the temptation to attack back.

You want to have a contrast between you and the person who’s telling the lies. And the best contrast is that they tell lies, and you tell the truth.

DEAR ANNE: Someone is spreading rumours about me. I don’t know who’s doing this. How can I stop it?

A: That’s the terrible thing about attack gossip. The gossiper hides behind the name ‘someone’, as in ‘Someone told me . . .’ So you may never know who started it all. And if you do find out who started it all and what they said, don’t be surprised if what they said was completely different than what’s being spread now.

Remember the game of jungle telephone? By the time the fourth or fifth person relays the message, it’s changed.

When false information is being spread, the antidote is true and accurate information. You may need to give the true and accurate information many times. The first information we hear acts as our baseline, and it takes more than one piece of information to change that baseline.

Get your friends to help you get the true and accurate information out.

Remember that false information doesn’t stand up over time, so keep telling the truth.

DEAR ANNE: I’m so mad I could spit nails. I’ve just come from a job interview. I was asked what I would do if part way through a project, the parameters were changed. I said that would depend on what was changed, when it was changed, and asked for an example. The example was word-for-word what happened at my last job, so I could just tell them what I did in that case. The interviewer looked puzzled. I’m sure my old boss told them something else, because my boss didn’t like how I handled it even though our customer was pleased. I’m sure my old boss is spreading lies about me. What can I do?

A: You can’t be sure that your old boss is doing that. What you can do is be prepared for the follow-up interview or the next interview. Is there anyone at your old job who could and would verify what happened? If so, ask them if they will act as a reference for you. Is there anything that will support what you say? If so, bring it with you (blacking out any confidential information).

Just knowing you have that support will help you in your next interview. If you get asked the same question, tell them how you would handle the situation, incorporating any lessons you learned. Take the high road and don’t mention the dispute you had with your boss, but do answer questions they may ask (without divulging confidential information).

Troy Media Columnist Anne McTavish is a conflict coach and lawyer, and her website is www.FistFreeLanguage.com.

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