In order to get started, a good rumor has to have two things going for it. It has to be on an important subject, and it has to be vague so it can be changed around to make it more interesting.
Gordon W. Allport and Leo Postman, authors of The Psychology of Rumor, classify four main types:
1. The wedge driver. These are divisive rumors which set people at odds with one another or against the organization or the government.
2. The pipe dreams. Rumors that falsely report wonderful things are pipe dreams. When you hear stories about cars powered by water, that the government will give everyone a lot of money, that vacation time will double, forget it. It’s a pipe dream.
3. The bogeys. These are fearful rumors. Someone “heard” there is a big depression coming, that the company will be sold to a competitor, that your job is going to be eliminated. These rumors are bogeys.
4. The homestretchers. Anticipatory rumors predict that soon something surprising is going to happen. They say goals will be reached far ahead of time, profits will be huge or losses will be huge, and itís all going to be announced very soon.
5. The mysterious source. Other rumors ruin reputations by calling upon the word of mysterious “good friends” who know a spicy (and false) or sordid story “for a fact.”
Watch out for the symptoms of gossip. Don’t listen to it. And don’t repeat it.