Do you talk about people when they aren't there - behind their backs?
Do you share secrets about others when you know you shouldn't?
Believe it or not, I'm not going to say - "Knock it off" of "Don't do it!" That's neither my style nor, in my opinion, the right attitude.
However, what I would do, if you started to talk about someone else, is ask you a couple questions:
- Why are you saying what you are saying - what do you hope to gain?
- Do you want to feel better about yourself?
- Do you want to get me to hate them?
- Do you want me to be as angry or frustrated at them as you are?
We are all different and those differences are going to get to you, at some time or another. You are going to get frustrated and / or angry with just about everyone you know at one time or another. Things that others do are going to bother you. And the truth is, you need to find a way to express how you feel with others, without feeling guilty or destroying some one else in the process - ruining their reputation or their name just so that you can feel better about yourself.
Conversations you may have about someone else, unto themselves, are not bad. In fact sometimes, they can be therapeutic. What gets unhealthy, dangerous, and malicious is when you begin talking about someone to prejudice someone else's viewpoint about yourself or the person you speak about. This happens when you open your mouth to say things that you would never want to say if that person were actually present or ever have them hear you utter.
So the trick (if it is a trick) in honoring those not present isn't avoiding speech about them - but instead making sure your words reflect what you truly want and what you are really all about. For example, if you are talking to someone about your spouse and making fun of her cooking or other behaviors, just to gain laughs and support from a bunch of guys - then that's not honoring her. But if you having the same discussion within the context of trying to figure out what your possible options are to discuss with your spouse - that's a completely different story.
It's not what is said, but how it is said and what your intentions with the speech that matters.
So, next time you find yourself talking about someone else that isn't present, ask yourself a couple questions:
- Am I having this conversation for the right reasons?
- Would I say these things if they were here now?
If the answer to both questions is yes, then "Go for it". Talk away in good conscious. But if not, hold your tongue, respect those not present and change subjects. You not only honor those not present, but also those that are.