Do you talk about your colleagues? I do. It’s very purposeful and strategic. I hope you do this, too. Let me explain. When I first started teaching, I had the most amazing mentor. She taught me so much about classroom instruction, management techniques, the best books to read. But she also taught me about people. She told me one time, “Jen, the best way to raise people up is to tell them great things about them to their face, and to say great things about them behind their back.”
I’ve never forgotten that. When I get the opportunity to talk someone up, I do. If someone else has given me insight to something, I give them credit. I get to choose the kind of information I spread about people.
When you share great things about others, it lets people know what you look for, what you choose to take away from interactions with them. This, in turn, creates trust.
One of the most difficult things to do is to hold your tongue when you are frustrated with someone. We think we are venting or problem solving, but what we are really doing is shedding negative (and possibly untrue) light on someone else. Before your begin a conversation like this, make sure you are speaking to someone you can trust, and then make it very clear that you are trying to understand or problem solve a specific situation with a person, not complain about their behavior. Believe me, I need to stop myself and think about my own intentions in situations like this. It's easy to fall into the trap of saying unkind things when we are frustrated, especially when the other person isn't there to defend themselves.
So really, it's all about choices. I get to choose the kind of impact I might have on someone else. Yes, I’ll talk behind your back. But not in the way that you think.