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Are you two-faced?

I made some comments about this in someone else's journal (the entry is friends-locked, so not identified) and it got me to wondering.

If you have a problem with how someone behaves--
  • Under what circumstances do you tell them?
  • Under what circumstances do you not tell them but tell other people who know them?
    • If you tell others, do you care whether those comments to get back to the person?
    • If you want that not to happen, do you do anything to prevent it?
    • Do your prevention mechanisms work?
  • Under what circumstances do you not tell anyone (or only one or two confidants)?

If someone has a problem with how you behave--
  • Under what circumstances do you want to be told?
  • Under what circumstances do you not want to be told?
  • Do you think people say things behind your back that are different from what they say to your face?
    • If so, does this bother you?
    • If it bothers you, do you do anything about it?
    • What do you do?


( 14 comments — Leave a comment )
Oct. 27th, 2003 12:30 pm (UTC)
Good questions. On the one side, if I have a problem with someone's behaviour and decide not to tell them, it's probably because I don't think it would do any good--that is, it's not a problem to them, or they won't listen to me, or whatever. But I don't actively try to keep the comment from them, either, unless I think they both will get angry over it and will somehow make my life more difficult because of their anger. At this point in my life, that's one person, whose social circle has literally no overlap with mine. I don't see this at all as being two-faced.

I can see in-betweenish cases that might be problematic, though. For instance, I want to tell the person, but not yet. In that case, if I tell others first, it could get back to that person in a way that I would regret, only in part because it would look two-faced. One subset of this is when I am not sure what the problem is, and a subset of that is when I think it might be partly me. I'm not sure whether I've ever had that happen or not, though I have had to handle a similar thing, someone finding out from others news that I was going to tell her, just not yet.

Having been in sf and related fandoms over half of my life, I take it as a fact of life that others are probably being more negative about me than they are to me, at least temporarily over something. I think this probably is more a matter of omission--ie, not telling me every single time I piss someone off--and I think it may be as much a good thing as a bad thing. I wouldn't call it two-faced, either. I'd save that for someone saying good things to my face and and things behind my back about the same behaviors of mine. In a close society, that kind of thing generally gets around, back to the person it's about, I think. Maybe I'm just overly optimistic, but I don't think that kind of thing happens too much in sf and related fandoms.

I guess my standards for wanting to be told when someone has a problem with my behavior are similar to when I tell: I want to be told if there's a chance the situation can be modified for the better, which is much of the time. If nothing else, the person and I can just avoid certain topics or situations. Hmmm. If the specific behavior isn't amenable to any fix at all (ie, the person objects to just the thought that I am in a triad, or study serial killers, or breed rats), but we get along well otherwise, I guess I'd want to know so as not to bring the subject up more than necessary. But you can usually tell that by how a person reacts; to me, it doesn't have to be discussed as an issue.
Oct. 27th, 2003 12:41 pm (UTC)
Great questions! (I just glanced at nellorat's answer, but I think we're pretty close.)

If I have a problem with someone's behavior, I tell them if they ask or if we have a prior agreement that they want to know. Otherwise, I tell them if I surmise/hallucinate that they want to know and/or if I feel that we're close enough that not telling them is a form of lying to them.

I tell other people if telling other people makes me feel better about the problem, and/or if I surmise/hallucinate that other people feel the same way and will feel better if they know their feeling is shared. In almost all cases, I don't say anything about a third party that I'm not willing to have that third party hear through the grapevine. I will often say "I prefer that you not tell X I said this about zir, but it's up to you." Since I won't work at prevention, I can't speak to whether my prevention mechanisms work.

If I think it's important that my opinion not get back to the person in question, I tell only one or two confidants. I'm terrible at the "not telling anyone" stuff, though if I have even one person to talk to, I'm usually perfectly comfortable.

If someone has a problem with me, I generally want to be told, although I won't pretend that hearing it is always comfortable. I don't want to be told if it's something I can't fix, and I certainly don't want to be told in nasty or hypercritical ways.
I assume people say things behind my back that are different than what they say to my face; I wish it weren't so, but I view it generally as human nature (although I think that term is more cultural than "natural"). If I become aware of a specific instance that concerns me, I usually go to the source and ask.

None of this would be complete if I didn't add that I believe most of what is said about me behind my back that I don't hear is complimentary; I believe this because most of what people tell me about third parties that they don't tell the third parties is complimentary. I've made a lifelong habit of passing compliments along to the people they're about, and it consistently amazes me how often people are surprised to know that compliments circulate behind their backs. Mo

So I don't want a conversation about what happens behind people's backs to become a conversation only about insults.
Oct. 27th, 2003 01:04 pm (UTC)
Hear, hear. Especially that last bit.

self-avowed member of the Ad-Hoc Task Force for the Redistribution of Third-Party Compliments, and not up to writing a whole response on this now, but pondering it. (Good questions!)
Oct. 27th, 2003 12:58 pm (UTC)
Gosh, pretty much what they said.

If I say something and I'm *terrified* that it will get back to that person, then I've done something wrong, or I'm too attached to someone who really is a jerk, and I should probably make it up to the people I burdened with the gripe, and/or out with it to the jerk. But I probably don't.
Oct. 27th, 2003 01:49 pm (UTC)
If I have a problem with someone's behavior, I will tell them under and of the following conditions:
  • Intended outcome of communication is to alter the results or stop the behavior.

    1. The behavior is causing a safety problem for others.
    2. The behavior is threatening, cruel or in other ways violent.
    3. I have coaching agreements with the person about the behaviors.

  • Intended outcome is something other than stopping the behavior.

    1. The behavior is creating an emotional barrier between us AND I want to deepen my relationship with that person. Intention: To find some common ground that frees me from my judgments about the behavior.
    2. I am concerned that the behavior is in reaction to me. Intention is to discover if I am part of the problem in which case I alter who I am being for that person or if it is unrelated to me.
    3. The person is a member of a small community or group in which I am a member and their behavior is damaging the group. I will talk to the person engaged in the behavior and to those reacting to the behavior. Intention: to break the cycle of Drama.

If someone has a problem with my behavior, I want to be told ONCE unless I have coaching agreements with that person. I have preferences for when and how that communication is delivered, but I do want to be told. I will hear the comment and take from it what I find useful and leave the rest. For example, if I am trying to enlist the support of businesses for some humanitarian project, it is probably not useful for me to introduce myself as a kinky bisexual polyamorous pagan. I want to know if the person or people I am talking to will stop listening at that point. I want my communications to be effective, so I have to know what to and what not to say. Feedback is the only way to handle that.

The only way I can listen to the criticism, though, is to remember that it is their opinion and not an indictment of me. It is about them. I can then choose to use the new information or not.
Oct. 27th, 2003 02:55 pm (UTC)
I suck so badly at confrontation that in effect I'm two faced - I get all these inappropriate flight/fight hormones going through my system and am at serious risk of tears if I do confront people, so I will often let off steam by talking to other people about it. It can take many months after something happens before I can talk about it rationally - I can now talk about what happened at Cov Bicon (2001) but it's too late to confront the person in question, so what good would it do?

And this is my problem at work at the moment - I suspect I'm being made the target of my cow orker's frustration with change because I tend to walk away or even quietly take it rather than give it back like the other potential targets do.

You know, over the last 10 years I've forgiven my Dad alot, but my ability to deal with bullying men has never recovered from my childhood and this really bothers me - it can make me look weak in the eyes of my rather macho workmates.
Oct. 27th, 2003 03:40 pm (UTC)
I'll tell them if it comes up in conversation. I'll tell others if it comes up in conversation. I don't generally make opportunities for such conversation. I don't care if anything I say gets back to the people about whom I've said it (I might find it regrettable in that I didn't want to hurt their feelings [or I might not], but I stand by what I say). Partly because I don't believe in prevention mechanisms. And partly as a tongue check---do I *really* think this? I will generally share negative opinions only with a few confidants: those whom I trust to share the same opinion or to not by swayed by mine. And who won't go blathering as a matter of course to the party of the first part.

I don't mind if people want to keep their opinions of me to themselves, or share them with me. Unless I am doing something racist or sexist or homophobic, etc., in which case I'd v. much appreciate a heads-up or a reality check. Maybe even a clueplane. I think people are probably more complimentary behind my back than to my face, just 'cause that's how most people are---gushing is embarrassing to both parties, so we generally keep it to ourselves.
Oct. 27th, 2003 06:58 pm (UTC)
Oooh, good point! I _definitely_ want people to call me on anything I do that misuses privilege.
(Deleted comment)
Oct. 27th, 2003 09:10 pm (UTC)
I think that posting 3 times definately was a misuse of your posting privilege. :)
(Deleted comment)
Oct. 27th, 2003 09:39 pm (UTC)
Re: misuse
I agree; I couldn't figure out how to delete the repeats. *sigh*
Oct. 27th, 2003 09:41 pm (UTC)
Re: misuse
There's an "X" icon in the comment, if you're logged in.
Click it to remove the duplicate comment.
Oct. 27th, 2003 05:01 pm (UTC)
I try never to say anything behind a person's back I wouldn't also say to their face if necessary/advisable/possible. I have, apparently, what is known as a 'speaking countenance' (i.e, everything going through my head is writ large on my face) so it'd be futile to try anything else.

I am always interested to know what people are saying about me behind my back. It is, after all, news on my favorite topic. And as dear Oscar said, the only thing worse than being talked about is not being talked about.

Oct. 27th, 2003 05:27 pm (UTC)
If I have a problem with how someone behaves:
I tell them if I expect them to change, or if I want them to know why I'm annoyed. People I have no relationship with, I generally will not tell; people I'm close to will certainly heaer about it; others are in the middle.
I tell others who (may) know them if I just need to vent and don't feel like it's something that would usually bother me. Comments getting back to the person is a friendship-breaker, as I have learned to make it clear that venting will take place and mean nothing beyond the moment. People can opt out if they don't feel up to that. Generally this works. (Note that I don't tell all the person's friends, or anything like that. It's just that the set of people I want to rant to may include people who also know the person I'm annoyed with.)
I don't tell many people if it's a situation in which I have no right to complain about the person and no reason to think things are going to change. Usually this is a step in figuring out how I can create a situation in which I am not bothered by the person any more.

If someone has a problem with how I behave:
I think I always want to hear that someone has a problem with my behavior, but how I'm told is important. I can be pretty vulnerable to criticism, and I can get very defensive if I feel like someone's saying they have a right to dictate what I do.
Sometimes I think people say things behind your back that are different from what they say to my face, and it bothers me some. But I don't think there's anything wrong with the way I work, so they get to bitch about me to their friends too. I figure if they had an issue they wanted my involvement in, they'd bring things to me directly.
Oct. 27th, 2003 09:55 pm (UTC)
Re: Are you two-faced?
i don't think i am two-faced; i tend not to say one thing to a person while i really believe another, and especially not when i am asked for my opinion. unless one considers basic civility two-faced -- i am generally civil even to people i do not like, generally, because i believe basic civility is a good thing in a society where i have to live with others in some harmony. i won't pretend i like somebody when i don't, and i won't pretend i like behaviour when i don't. but that doesn't require that i walk around telling everybody exactly what i think all the time either.

if i have a problem with how somebody behaves, it depends on a combination of things whether i'll mention it to zir:

- we are really close and it's affecting our relationship negatively, or
- the person presents a danger to me, or a dire danger to others, and
- i have some hope that me saying something will change the behaviour in question.

if i don't tell zir, but tell somebody else who might or might not know zir, that usually means i am venting. i don't particularly want my vents to get back to the person, since i am less than fair when i vent, ergo i tend to vent to people who can keep such things to themselves. yeah, my prevention mechanisms work; i am pretty good at picking trustworthy confidants. if i am just yakking to somebody more random, then i don't care whether it gets back to the person; i don't say things under those circumstances that i don't stand behind, and i know people gossip.

i want to be told about problems with my behaviour under similar circumstances. i don't care at all to hear such things from random people (unless what i am doing falls into the "danger" category, or is just supremely clueless about something). yeah, some people say things behind my back that are different from what they say to my face. yes, two-facedness bothers me, just on general principle, even when i am not involved. i do something about it when somebody tries to repeatedly gossip negatively to me; i'll tell zir that i don't care for it, and that i won't keep dirty little secrets.

good gossip bothers me less, but it still bothers me some, because i believe people are entitled to tell their own stories, and not have them relayed through third parties. complimentary stuff is neat, and i encourage others (and myself) to say such things directly more often. i do say complimentary things about people to others, and i re-tell them if i hear them; that aspect of gossip is my favourite.
( 14 comments — Leave a comment )

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