Let’s Talk Opinion in conversation with TodaysManager
“You may think that you shouldn’t have to worry about a forty year old man or a fifty five year old woman doing something so childish. You would think they would have had plenty of years to grow up. Well I regretfully inform you that most people haven’t.”
How a Deal with a Tattle-Tale asks Cranston Holden. He introduces the topic in the context of “office politics” and offers a few suggestions as to how a leader must recognise a snitch and the best ways to avoid a breakdown of trust between colleagues by discouraging this type of behaviour from the get-go.
This made me consider a different type of tattletale. The one that doesn’t lurk passive-aggressively in your workplace, but rather someone who calls themselves your friend.
It is a tough one. We often talk to our friends about the goings-on in our lives. Sometimes we will share the details of a conversation with another mutual friend or acquaintance because something had been said that perhaps irked us, and we want advice on what to do about it. So far, so good.
However, we all have a friend or two for whom casual gossip about other mutual acquaintances or friends is the meat of all exchanges. It seems that it is their vocation in life to keep you informed in the greatest detail about what others say about you — usually nothing you would actually want to know about. What is more, since they have sworn you to secrecy in advance, there is no way for you to verify the truth of the report without breaking your word.
I had such a friend. Past tense. Call her Lira. I kept her confidence and made excuses for the things she imparted. I didn’t want to believe them to be outright lies, but I didn’t believe that the friends she snitched on could have actually said those things about me. It was all a misunderstanding, I used to think.
It all came to a head when a mutual friend asked whether I had only befriended them out of pity. That’s what Lira told them that I’d confided. Like me, they couldn’t believe that she would lie about something like that, but it didn’t sound like something I’d ever say either. It made me realise that Lira’s strategy had been one of “divide and conquer.” It all began with tattletales, but when these were short in supply, she decided to invent her own.
Since my experience with Lira, I am suspicious of anyone who comes to me with tattletales. It may be unfair. It may be the case that they are actually telling me the truth about someone else being a hypocrite, saying something to my face and something else behind my back. But I do wonder… what purpose does it serve? What am I supposed to do with that information? If I confront the offender on the basis of what I was told, then the tattletale will be revealed as being exactly that. If I’m not expected to act on it, then why are they telling me this in the first place. What are they are after?
What do you do when a friend tattletales?
I have to admit that I’ve never called a friend out on it. Perhaps next time it happens, I’ll follow Cranston’s advice and say: “So you’re telling me that person had the nerve to say all of those things?” and after waiting for the well-meaning friend to answer in the affirmative, I’ll go: “And you did nothing about it?!” Yep. Sounds like a good plan to me.
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