What role do rumors play?
Rumors often begin because of a lack of understanding. If, as a result of unclear directives by employers or administrators,
employees or colleagues don't understand why an event happened or if they don't know what to expect, rumors often proliferate.
In this setting, rumors may represent an attempt to rationalize or explain the unknown. Likewise, when conflict is present,
we may spread rumors to support our position in the conflict.
We hear rumors through the grapevine, but the grapevine often yields bitter fruit. A popular rhyme, paraphrasing poet Alexander
Pope, summarizes rumors this way: "The flying rumors gathered as they rolled. Almost every tale heard was then soon told.
And those who told them added something new. Those who heard them made enlargements, too."
Why do rumors, once started, spread with such persistence? Often the reason is that we want to believe them. Some news reporters
make a career of repeating rumors about prominent people. Gossip and rumors have gone from the front porch to the front pages
of newspapers and magazines.
Part 2 of this series will follow next month.
Note: This article was adapted from Osborne CA. The ethics and etiquette of good gossip. J Am Vet Med Assoc 1995;206:1534-1537.
Dr. Osborne is a professor at the College of Veterinary Medicine, University of Minnesota.