6 Simple Steps to Silence Slanders
At sometime in your professional career, it is almost inevitable that you will be slandered. When this occurs, there is a natural tendency to lash back and tell the world the accusation is false. There is also a tendency, however, for those listening to wonder why you are denying these accusations. If the people you associate with are constantly hearing you deny that your business is failing or that you are swindling some insurance company, they are going to eventually wonder why all these stories are floating around about you. When this happens the slanderer has won.
So what’s the best course of action if you are the victim of a slander campaign? Try these six simple steps:
- Defeat slander with action, not words. By behaving in a manner that is inconsistent with the lie, your behavior will make people realize the slander isn’t true. Edward Bernays, the founder of the public relations industry received one of his first assignments from the illustrious Waldorf-Astoria Hotel. They had been beset by stories that they were on the verge of closing. This was keeping patrons and important investment away. Attempts to refute the rumors only seemed to boost their credibility in the public’s mind. Rather than issue more denials, Bernays had the hotel hire a world-renown chef to a ten year contract. The act of signing this prominent gourmet demonstrated to the public that the hotel was committed to the long-term in a way that all the verbal denials never could.
- Tell a better story. The core of any slanders appeal is an interesting story. Even if it’s unfounded we all like to hear a good tale. If you can make your version more intriguing you can deflate the slanders allure. The famous TV executive, Sheldon Leonard took this idea to heart. When CBS spread rumors of canceling the low-rated Dick Van Dyke Show, sponsors began withdrawing from the program. Leonard promptly arranged a conference to get them back on his side. At the meeting he asked the sponsors how much time they had. He then synchronized his gold watch to their requirements and set it on the table in front of them. He spoke about the merits of the show in a speech he characterized as getting down on one knee and singing “Mammy.” Then like a veteran showman, he retrieved his watch on schedule and marched out of the room before receiving his answer. This dramatic story and exit had an enormous effect on the sponsors. They voted overwhelmingly to continue supporting the show.
- Associate with quality people. The old adage “birds of a feather flock together” resonates in most minds. Like it or not, we are often judged by the company we keep. The master showman, P.T. Barnum understood this. He began his professional life by hawking midgets, conjoined twins and hermaphrodites at freak shows. As his career progressed he wanted to he wanted to improve his image. He accomplished this by promoting the prestigious singer Jenny Lind. Her upper-class following and distinguished tours of Europe and America greatly enhanced Barnum’s reputation.
- Court rather than offend slanderers and the public. Resist the temptation to lash out at your detractors and win them back to your side instead. In the David and Goliath story, King Saul bluntly tells David he does think he’s up to the task of fighting Goliath. Rather than take offense, David reminds his sovereign that he has experience killing lions and bears. Goliath should be easy compared to these agile beasts. When the King offers him some ill-fitting armor he doesn’t scoff at the proposal; he merely says “I have not yet proved them.” As if he must prove himself in battle before accepting the honor of wearing his majesty’s armor.
- Don’t get side-tracked. Don’t let all the verbal garbage out there distract you. Just keep doing what made you successful. The popular pianist, Liberace knew this. During his career he was openly scathed by critics as unprofessional, weak and lacking any real talent. His reply to them was always “Your remarks are very hurtful. I cried all the way to the bank.” It was true. Liberace’s over-the-top performances achieved some of the biggest earnings in concert history.
- Finally, pursue legal action. If the lie is especially vicious—meaning strong enough to damage your business—you should take legal action. A word of caution here. Legal action takes a lot of time and resources. Pursue it only if the situation warrants it. You should though, always let slanderers know you are willing to take them to court.
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