prompt from aliki: What was the most hurtful thing you have ever said behind someone's back?
I'm really not sure. It was probably something I said as a teen, because I remember being taken to task for saying that someone I met was shallow, when I would not have said that to the person's face, and I probably said other things that would have hurt people. I have very very few memories from my teenage years, but I was very angry and pretty ignorant and probably said mean things (I know I used ableist slurs). As far as I can remember I have always considered things-people-can't-help (like bodies) to be off limits for attacking, but I'm only 90% sure that has always been true.
If I have said something hurtful behind someone's back recently, it would be because I didn't realize that it would be hurtful. If I realize it would be hurtful, I either tell them directly or I keep it to myself. Well, that's not completely true, because I have had connections that lapsed where I then reflected on them and said to someone else that that person was selfish, but I have never told that person that I think they are selfish. It's that place where we're not building anything, so to go to them and say "I have this problem with you" doesn't make sense, but it's still a sore spot that I feel the need to talk about sometimes. I don't know if I have a tendency to be drawn to selfish people, if selfishness is common, if I have a higher bar for what is selfishness than most people, or if I tend to apply a selfish label unfairly (perhaps due to me not asking for what I want, or due to me not realizing their limitations), but I have more than two lapsed connections with people I now see as selfish. I think probably all of those things are true.
I consider it unethical to talk negatively (or in a way that could be perceived as negative) about someone behind their back, so I do my best not to do it. (I'm not quite as intense about it as I used to be, but the gist of this post is still true) I consider it a form of lying, in that the assumption is that a friend does not have an issue with your behavior unless they say so. If I have an active connection with someone I won't do it unless it is in the context of preparing to talk to them about my issue with them (for example, talking to Heather about an issue I have with Kylei or vice versa, before talking to the person directly). If I can't bring myself to talk to the person about the problem, then I consider myself partly to blame (except in cases of abuse) as I have not given them the chance to realize or explain. It's okay if I can't talk to them or can't do it now, but I don't get to badmouth them in the meantime just to relieve my upsetness. I need to NOT vent because staying in that discomfort provides motivation and momentum for dealing with the person directly. Not to say I am always good at this! But it is always my goal, I live up to it I'd say at least 95% of the time, and I feel regret when I do not live up to it.
I do not consider it talking about someone behind their back to talk publicly about an issue I have with someone. It fits with my ethics to let them know at the same time I am letting everyone else know. This doesn't usually happen unless they have ended our relationship, because out of courtesy I prefer to tell someone first and have the chance to talk about it in the past tense with a solution on top rather than talk about it publicly before the working-out process. But if you stomped on my heart and I want to tell that story, it's my story to tell, and refraining is courtesy. If I know a person has strong privacy restrictions, I won't talk about them publicly in any specifics, and if I am upset with a person this may result in me writing about someone in a friends-locked entry. Usually I still have them added so that they can see, and otherwise I have offered to email entries to the people who they are about.
I can't stand people talking about me negatively in a way that they haven't told me about. I hate the idea of wandering around thinking that people have no problem with my behavior when they do, and I hate the idea of being ignorant of some failing I could be working on. While the idea of someone calling me out in public is scary, I'd far rather know than not know.