Mike Rosmann: How to handle false accusationsMost of us have been the object of false accusations one time or another during our lives. Few deeds hurt more than being accused of something we didn’t do or having our reputation trashed unfairly.
By: By Mike Rosmann, INFORUM
Most of us have been the object of false accusations one time or another during our lives. Few deeds hurt more than being accused of something we didn’t do or having our reputation trashed unfairly.
False accusations don’t have to wound us to our core. Indeed, they can provide opportunities to learn about ourselves, to build character, and to model respectable behavior for others to emulate.
False accusations occur regularly in the workplace, in school, within extended families and many social groups.
In the workplace, false accusations often involve rumormongering among fellow employees, rivals seeking to discredit a boss or co-worker, or outright mobbing designed to destroy the reputation of an employee and perhaps to get that person to leave the employment setting.
When false accusations take the form of mobbing or bullying in the workplace, such actions are illegal in most European countries. Many U.S. jurisdictions and Canadian provinces have enacted anti-mobbing or anti-bullying statutes. Wrongful dismissal suits are becoming commonplace when false accusations in the employment setting lead to job termination.
I have observed false accusations among farm people. One or more prospective farm renters started a campaign of false rumors about the current lessee of a desirable farm property by raising questions about the lessee’s capacity to pay his bills so that the widow who owned the land might lease it to another renter.
Bullying by children has been identified as a factor contributing to violence by schoolchildren. Often the bullying begins with the propagation of falsehoods by peers.
Parents and caretakers should be particularly attuned to kids’ passing along falsehoods about another child. Rumormongering should not be considered an acceptable part of the development of social competence by children as they approach the teen years or when they are adolescents. Most schools and many other settings that involve supervision of children have adopted anti-bullying policies.
Making false accusations is as wrong for children as for adults. Children are more vulnerable because they usually lack the skills to deal with false rumors.
How can we deal with false accusations? They are difficult to defend against. If we confront the people we think are spreading the falsehoods, they usually deny their actions.
Most people are unfazed by confrontations meant to cause them to cease their false accusations. Often they attack even more vehemently and secretively.
The best defense is to not act defensive. To continue to behave positively and with dignity ultimately prevails.
While we often fear that others will believe the false accusations, others nearly always choose to believe what they observe. Our actions speak loudly. Remaining unfazed ourselves and moving along to do our best usually invalidate the false accusations and the accusers as well.
We have to rise above our anger and desires for revenge. We can’t control the false accuser. We are in control of ourselves only.
We can use the experience of false accusations to improve ourselves. We can conduct soul-searching to figure out our core beliefs and motivations. Prayer and meditation can help us figure out better ways to behave positively. We still have the capacity to control our attitude even when we are being attacked unfairly.
We choose whether to retaliate. We choose to behave with character. We choose to exhibit what we want others to see in our actions.
Anger does little to heal us. Anger raises our blood pressure. It compromises our immune system. It can lead to long-term hatred and foment violence.
It is healthier to get our feelings of revenge out by talking about them with people whom we trust as supporters. But we should be careful to not talk about the accusations to others who will repeat them.
Participating in community events and volunteer work build our image of remaining confident and contributive.
There are occasions when it is appropriate to take formal actions to curtail a pattern of unfair attacks. Sometimes we can take a false accusation to a higher authority, such as a school principal or a board of directors.
When the false accusation has become a public report, it might be appropriate to issue a public statement that denies the falsehood and replaces it with the truth as we know it. Filing legal actions such as a libel suit or wrongful dismissal suit might be appropriate if we can afford the time and cost.
False accusations hurt only if we let them. If we know we are better than the falsehoods being propagated and behave with positive dignity we find peace within ourselves.
Rosmann is a Harlan, Iowa, psychologist and farmer. To contact him, please visit www.agbehaviorhealth. He welcomes suggestions for future columns.