Why is it considered a good thing to SAY IT TO SOMEONE'S FACE? People typically applaud non-violent conflict resolution, yet "saying it to someone's face," an action that greatly increases the odds of the conflict/disagreement becoming violent, is commended.
Talking behind people's backs is something we all do. We dislike many of the sorry bipeds we’re forced to compete with for attention and sustenance, and practical living doesn’t permit us to freely voice our thoughts on everyone else to everyone else. But the thoughts remain. So sometimes we engage in gossip. Sometimes that gossip evolves into outright badmouthing. We all say we hate it, but we always listen in (guiltily or not). What else is fiction but gossip about imaginary people? What else is reality TV but gossip with fancy editing?
Talking behind people’s backs releases steam and actually prevents a lot of simmering grudges from becoming five alarm fistfights. But we're told it is better to say it to someone's face. We're fed the message that it is wrong to engage in violence, but that it is right to behave in ways that lead to violence.
The behind-the-back smearers are usually not the ones who provoke altercations. It’s the bull in a China shop, I’LL SAY IT TO HIS FACE!-types who bring matters to a head. Every office, every medical staff, every platoon is loaded with covert mudslinging, yet most of these entities function in spite of it. Relations typically only break down when someone makes the “laudable” decision to say something to someone’s face.
And saying it to someone's face doesn't have to lead to violence to cause incurable damage. Verbal confrontations can permanently alter the chemistry of a team. Worse, actually hearing what someone else thinks of you can corrupt your confidence in ways from which it can't recover. On the whole, it is far more considerate to badmouth someone behind his back. If you can't say anything nice, say it when your target is out of the room.
Say really nice things to my face on Twitter: http://twitter.com/#!/greatMikePayne