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How To Deal With Slander

Updated on July 12, 2012
Slander is painful, whether it is in the form of nasty stories, accusations, defamatory graffiti, or spreading rumors.
Slander is painful, whether it is in the form of nasty stories, accusations, defamatory graffiti, or spreading rumors.

Dealing With Slander

It hurts when you encounter a slander directed at you. When the slander comes from a family member or someone who you thought was your friend it is particularly painful. Before I explore how to handle slander, it is important to understand what slander is. Slander as a word, is both a noun and a verb. So you can discover a slander or someone can engage in the act of slander against you.

As a noun, a slander is ‘a false tale’. Typically this false tale, or story is spread with the intention of hurting you or your reputation. The hurting may be of an embarrassing nature or it may be false reports of criminal acts or other wrong doing. In the legal world, slander are the spoken false reports. When those reports are written down or spoken over the airwaves, they are considered ‘libel’. Although spreading such false tales is considered a civil offense (or tort) in many areas, proving slander is often hard to do. The person may have said something, but it may not have been with the intent to hurt you. The slanderer may dismiss what they did claiming that they were frustrated, tired or angry. Trying to prove that the slanderer said the false statements with the intent of hurting you is difficult. Those who slander know this and often make excuses to avoid legal charges.

Yes, you can press legal charges against a slanderer. Taking such matters to court can be expensive and end up making you look guilty of what was said about you. Using the legal option is often seen as using a cannon to kill a fly. The overkill of your reaction may make matters worse. You will also need to consider the culture you are living in. This is especially true with the legal option. If you are an outsider, or have values different than the local community, this option may backfire. Legal matters can end up in court. Once in court, they will go before a jury of people from the local community. So, although you may think that what was said was slanderous, yet if it is within the community standards, you will lose in the long run.

If the slanderer embarrasses you by sharing about things that you actually did, there is not much you can do. If you did it, they are not spreading lies. It may be that their motive for telling others about what you did is to hurt you, but since it is the truth, there is little that you can do to stop it. When you are a public official or public figure, proving slander is more complicated. With public figures, it is assumed that people have opinions about them. Some of those opinions are based on facts, some are based on false assumptions. Regardless of what they are based on, when you are a public figure, in many ways, you are more vulnerable to slander. The slander does not hurt less, there is just less that you can do about it. The public are allowed free speech and there are times that they will say things that you do not like or are blatant falsehood. When the public accuses you of a specific criminal wrong doing, and you are a public figure, you have some recourse, if you are innocent of the accusation.

Knowing how to deal with false stories has its challenges. You can always choose to ignore them. Ignoring them does not make the slander go away. It can defuse some situations, like the slanderer was just ‘letting off steam’. When the slanderer is ‘locked on’ and determined, ignoring them only makes them try harder. They often want you to engage them. They want you to talk with them. If you do try to talk with them, it often encourages them to continue in their efforts. Slander often works best with those who are impulsive or immature in their thinking. With those groups, they react before they think and are easy to incite. If you are surrounded by such groups, you may need to confront the slanderer. In such cases, the slanderer wants an audience. Intervening in a way that allows you to confront the slanderer without a public audience is the best way to handle situations where they inflame others with the slander.

Such an intervention will not remove the damaging effects of the slander, but it will stop further damage from occurring.

My own experience is that ‘containing’ the slander worked best. Containing requires you to ‘make sure’ of your friends and key associates that the slanderer may come in contact with. Like vaccinations, you will want to prepare them for the potential negative story. Once they are aware of the slander going around, it will have little effect on them. This intervention works best in situations where you have a group that is less reactionary and think before they act. It also works when you do not have direct access to the slanderer.

Some slanderers are like trolls. They launch their attacks under an alias or from a protected place, like a foreign nation or prison. In such cases, you can not confront them. You may not even know who they are. Slanderers also do not play fair. If you expect them to, you will be disappointed. By their very nature, lies and secrets are more important to them than the truth. When you strongly deny the slander, it often adds validity to the slanderous story. For this reason, you will need to deny the slander without adding any extra emotion.

There are also cases of false slander. In such cases, people are using the label of slander in response to freedom of speech. People may have opinions of you that you do not like. Just because they have that opinion and express it does not mean it is slander. During these days of political correctness gone wild, there is often little tolerance shown toward differences of opinion. In many cases, rather than express a difference of opinion, those losing the discussion resort to name calling and attacks that often verge on slander. Such persons often have little to no tolerance of opinions or thoughts different from their own.

Whatever kind of slander you are dealing with, the effects remain painful. You may have to consider where the attack is coming from. In some cases, the person launching the slander either does not know what they are talking about or are not worth the effort of countering them. Walking away from some situations may be the best option for you.


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