Sadly, some people never grow out of the ‘high school’ or ‘college’ phase of their lives. They become accustomed to gossiping or making conjecture about other people behind their backs and without their knowledge. This is often childish behavior and should be called out as such. If you have a problem or an issue with someone, you should address it in a mature manner, and directly if feasible as an adult. To not do so and to opt to gossip or slander someone’s reputation, even if justified, can often make the situation worse, not better.
There’s nothing wrong with speaking out about a kind of grievance or a specific problem you may have with another person but to do so in terms of gossip or hearsay is wrong. When you decide to ‘go through the grapevine’, it can often insult the person on top of the problem you already have with them and cause the problems to escalate rather than to be solved. If you are not direct with someone about the issue and decide to go behind their back, they may think less of you and to not apologize or at least make the effort to because they will be surprised that there was even an issue to begin with.
If the issue is valid and there is a real concern there, the best way to do it as adults is directly or with a third party directly involved to the ease the tension. If you go through a third party or a third person and then the person you have an issue with hears about it from them, I tend to think that will make them think less of you for having told a third person or party about the problem rather than going to that third party and to you at the same time. To do so professionally can cause problems but to do so in your personal life in the wrong manner can rupture a friendship or a family tie even worse.
When it comes to interpersonal relations, if someone has an issue with you, justly or unjustly, you should always advocate for that issue to be worked on directly whether with just the two parties involved or with a third party, who is supposed to be neutral in weighing the arguments or grievances from both parties. When you have someone as a third party who only hears one side of the story and then already makes a judgment without consideration of the other person’s perspective or viewpoint, then that is also a cause for concern in alleviating the situation.
Indirect grievances or gripes, conveyed to a third party indirectly, with the person or people you have issue with not even hearing from you about it at all can cause further annoyance especially when they feel that their reputation or their livelihood is at risk. I am an advocate for direct communication as much as possible even when the matter at hand can cause offense. It is simply better for both parties to hear each other out and to see if a resolution can be had, especially with a third party as an intermediary who does not make a premature judgment before both persons can be heard fairly.
If one side is not playing fair and is distorting the truth or completely lying about you or what happened, you have the right to defend both your honor and your reputation. You should air your side of the story and make sure the truth is heard. You should not gossip in retaliation or spread falsehoods ever about that person to get even if they have lied or gossiped or spread slander about you. That is what ties into the notion of ‘being the bigger person’ in interpersonal relations. You should not look to score cheap points or to get even or to go down to their level.
You must rise above their childish or teenage behavior and to be the only adult in the room if it comes to that. People’s perception of you or of your reputation does matter a lot especially if you’re a leading member of a community, a state / region, or a country. Even if what you think is gossip or conjecture should not be taken seriously or with a ‘grain of salt’, other people may not take it the same way and your reputation will be harmed as a result. Indirect complaints or problems can often cause bigger issues to emerge because it creates a toxic atmosphere of distrust or ill will especially when one person’s side of the story is not being heard at all, or they can’t find a neutral third party to issue a conclusion or a verdict, or when they would prefer to deal with the problem or issue at hand directly.
It’s often harder to be the ‘bigger person’ in any dispute or issue because some folks want to commit childish actions because they know it will be popular to do so. As odious as ‘gossiping’ is, some adults never grow out of that stage and act like children still even if they are of middle age or even elderly. They want to bring you down to their level in a way and get you to do the same kind of indirect gossip and conjecture as they do, but you should avoid that at all costs.
If you can make a dispute directly with that person in return or find fault with their argument(s), make sure you find a neutral third party to hear you out especially if they heard from that other party without you even knowing. It’s important to not let your guard down in a dispute and protect your reputation to the best of your ability and use the truth and the facts to outweigh the gossip and the falsehoods you may encounter. Being the bigger person is never easy, but it will show to others that you are able to deal with criticism in a healthy and mature manner.
Overreacting by getting upset or using the same ill-advised gossip as they do is a recipe for disaster and for that one issue to lead to multiple other issues. Resolve any dispute or issue that you may find yourself in with the truth of the matter, the straight facts, and to deal with the other party directly. Do not rely upon hearing something suspect, through the ‘grapevine’ as some others prefer to do and accept it without any reservations or questions. Those who accept this kind of conjecture without any pushback or evidence or getting the facts from both sides shows that they may not have matured as much as they think even after having left their high school grounds or their college campus.