November 2017
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on talking about people behind their back


icon: "Ma'at (a photo of one side of a brass balance scale, with a feather inside the bowl. The background is sky blue. On the bottom of the image, below the photo, is the word "Ma'at")"

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.

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Comments
aliki ══╣╠══
It's one of my huge annoyances too. I find it just unethical and wormy to talk about someone behind their back. It serves no purpose at all and is devisive and rude.
belenen ══╣garrulous╠══
*nodnod*
meteorology ══╣╠══
I really admire your ethics here. I don't like the idea of talking about someone behind their back but sometimes I just feel the need to vent and I don't know what I would do, emotionally, if I couldn't.

And unfortunately I feel like in my family there is a culture of talking behind each other's backs, probably like with a lot of families, so I guess I've been brought up with that ever since my parents split. Not that upbringing is an excuse.

My Grandma always says, "Never say anything behind someone's back that you wouldn't say to their face" and I guess I try to stick with that, although I know it's far from perfect and doesn't really work (since what you can imagine yourself saying to someone's face when you're angry is very unlikely to be what you would actually say).

I feel like this is one area where I will probably never become a better person, sadly - at least not where my family are concerned - but it's good to be aware of the possibility.
belenen ══╣honesty╠══
I also try to stick with the 'would say it to their face' in general, and my friends are aware that I consider it appropriate for them to repeat what I say (unless I specifically ask that they not and they agree before I share it, which almost never happens). It keeps me accountable.
feladrone ══╣╠══
"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."

I do more or less the same thing. I'm very, very careful to avoid talking about someone to a third party IRL, because you just never know what could get back to them. I would feel so awful if I hurt someone's feeling because of some off-hand comment I made when I was in a shitty mood that I didn't necessarily mean.

The one exception is here, on LJ. I rant here, and all my posts are friend-locked. There's always a teeny-tiny risk someone could find out, but personally I think it's pretty safe. I also honestly think getting my crap out here makes me a better person IRL. I can just get all my bullshit out of my system and then it's done.

I do know that some of what I feel/rant about isn't completely fair. I know that sometimes I get irritated at things I shouldn't. It's something I'm struggling with, because I also want to be honest with myself. I don't think any good comes from swallowing my feelings and letting them fester in some corner of my mind, even if what I'm feeling isn't particularly mature.

LJ is kind of my way of meeting things in the middle. It's a (somewhat) public place for me to rant and get a little sympathy, but it's very far removed from my IRL social life. Not a perfect solution, but as far as I can see it's the best thing out there.
belenen ══╣brewing╠══
I will rant sometimes when I am alone, out loud, when I'm really upset. I don't ever consciously swallow my feelings, but if I am irrational with anger (or might be) then I just do it out loud alone or by writing it down privately.

I see LJ as a good way for me to understand my life and my feelings, so I consider it fine for me to write whatever ranting I want here, but I really, REALLY can't stand to be misunderstood and I am very not clear when I am angry ranting, so that's probably the biggest reason that I wouldn't put that here. I feel the need to at least get to a calm place first so that I can be sure I am saying what I mean.
raidingparty ══╣Tango╠══
(mental hugs)
Since I've had a ridiculous pattern of opposite days and subversions of late, I have to call you out publicly for being excellent and loverly.

I met you because of your request, and I thought the friend request was doing something for you.
Conversely, it turns out (to my perspective, at least) you've been doing far more for me. I'm learning from your posts, stretching my worldview, and seeing beauty in unexpected places.
And it's all your fault. ;9

I'm sorry I haven't been posting nearly as much, although I'm improving my time management (go Habitica go!), and expect to get back to posting regularly soon.
on communication, social justice, intimacy, consent, friendship & other relationships, spirituality, gender, queerness, & dreams. Expect to find curse words, nudity, (occasionally explicit) talk of sex, and angry ranting, but NEVER slurs or sexually violent language. I use TW when I am aware of the need and on request.
Expect to find curse words, nudity, (occasionally explicit) talk of sex, and angry ranting, but NEVER slurs or sexually violent language. I use TW when I am aware of the need and on request.