Dealing With Difficult People – Behind Your Back
There’s an old saying that what you don’t know won’t hurt you. But in the compressed world we live in, I think it may not be true anymore. Because if people are talking about you behind your back, it could undermine your authority, derail your best efforts, and present you with challenges down the road when people who don’t know any better buy into whatever is being said about you, without ever giving you a chance. Today’s post is about dealing with people talking you down behind your back.
Occasionally, you hear a report that “so and so” said “such and such” about you. The question is, who’s talking you down in this scenario? Is it the “so and so,” or the person who’s telling you this is so? Sometimes informants are really the culprits in disguise. They’re hiding in plain sight, and framing other people with a comment taken out of context. They may even sharpen it to a point and then plunge it into your chest with an innocent, “Did you hear what `so and so’ said about you?”
If the reason that you’re being told about it by this particular informant somehow escapes you, turn on the searchlight with your questions. Ask “Does ‘so and so’ know that you are telling me this?” If the answer is “No,” then tell the informant that you’ll only discuss this further with all parties involved You, the accused, and the informant. “Let’s go talk to `so and so together.’ That will end it right then and there, as the informant seeks to get away from the bright searchlight of your questions.
Suppose, however, that your informant is a trusted confidant who you can count on for reliable information. In that case, drop what you’re doing and go directly to the possible culprit. Tell them what you’ve heard, and ask if it’s true, because even a reliable source can get it wrong. If the supposed culprit asks “Who told you that?” remember to protect the identity of your source, and answer the question by restating the original question. “Actually, that’s not the question. I’m asking you, did you say this about me?”
The strategy with covert operators, whether it’s being done to you in quotes, around you or behind your back, is to bring the behavior out into the open by making the person doing it uncomfortable. If the person who you firmly believe is doing this denies having said anything, you’d be well advised to let it go, since their discomfort, rather than a confession, is what you are after, and your asking them directly has already gotten that result. Should you hear about it again, repeat the process, and again after that. After a few times, the person realizes their cover is blown and the behavior either finds a new expression or is extinguished by your consistent and effective response.
I’d love it if you brought your comments out in the open. Now, or at any time.