May 31, 2010

Trash Talk Recycling

Would you tell Barb what Jill said about her if you were certain that Barb was going to confront Jill using you as her source of information? Confused? Let's make it a story problem.

You and Barb have been close friends for years, you support each other through thick and thin, working on community projects together, helping with each others garage sales, you are known for being best friends. Jill, an acquaintance of both of yours tells you that she thinks Barb's decision to keep chairing the Festival of Bird Baths is ridiculously but predictably selfish and that it's time Barb passed the torch to another member of the Babes for Bird Baths Association. She has plenty more to say about your friend Barb, but realizes she's getting a chilly reception and clams up.

All too often, we pass this sort of trash talk along to the "trashed", but forbid them from telling the "Jills" of the world who spilled the beans.  This leaves Barb insulted and powerless (probably the worst one-two combo in the world). Here's my view of this: If you aren't completely comfortable being quoted on your reporting of trash talk, keep it to yourself. Or better yet, tell the Jill to take a hike. "You are talking about my friend and I don't like it".

It seems to me, when we pass along an insult in the spirit of "I thought you should know....", but haven't...
  1. had the guts to confront the trash talker yourself and defended your friend; and
  2. given your friend your permission to cite you the source leave her in the position to doubt YOUR friendship. I sure would.

This happened to a good friend of mine recently and as she told me the details, my very first question was: Why in the world did she tell you this? And she swore you to secrecy, that you could never mention it? Huh? Who is the queen of mean here?

If this sounds like high school junk, I agree. As we get older and wiser(?), the stakes get higher with careers and families in the balance. Let's all stand up for each other when we hear this junk, and to the betrayed: the favor of not retelling the story.

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