If You Hear People Say Something Mean About Your Friend, Should You Tell Them?

one person whispering gossip to another
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It’s funny. People often have really strong opinions about what you’re supposed to do in social situations.

And for the most part, I find that there’s typically a lot of agreement here. But lately, I discovered an arena which is rather ambiguous.

You see, I had heard my whole life that if someone says something mean about your friend, you should tell them. That your friend should know people are talking behind their back.

I’ve always seen it as more gray though, however. Sometimes, especially when a friend has a lot going on in their life, the last thing they need to hear is crappy things other people are saying about them. Especially if it’s fairly likely that they’ll never hear. And especially when it won’t be helpful to them but simply hurtful.

But I do know people who would insist that it doesn’t matter what the situation is. A good friend tells their friend about the nasty rumors. Period.

However, lately, I’ve been seeing more people arguing the opposite. And I saw a sharp uptick in people widely sharing a meme that had the following message: “Don’t disturb my peace by telling me what other people said about me. Keep it to Yourself, they told You…not me.”

This led me to wonder: Is this second belief being fairly pervasive actually new? Or were there perhaps many people who believed it at least in part who were drowned out by the more popular, simpler idea?

If You Hear People Say Something Mean About Your Friend, Should You Tell Them?

So if you hear people say something mean about your friend, should you tell them?

My own personal gut feel on the issue is that it depends. On what it is. How close I am to the friend. What’s going on in their life. And whether it would be useful for them to know it (for example, to defend themselves against a betrayal, feedback to improve themselves, etc.) or just hurtful.

At this point, I pretty much assume that people can and do say mean things behind my back. (And in fact have stumbled onto them doing so from time to time.) And I’ve found that if it’s nothing that I can put to productive purpose, it’s actually better for me not to hear it at all.

But I wanted to turn the question to you, readers. Because I’m genuinely curious what people think.

If you hear people say something mean about your friend, should you tell them?

Feel free to let me know what you think. Thanks in advance for any insights.


Books by Page Turner:

Psychic City, a slipstream mystery



Dealing with Difficult Metamours

A Geek’s Guide to Unicorn Ranching

Poly Land: My Brutally Honest Adventures in Polyamory 

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  1. Hello Paige, for me it has always been: If you hear someone say something mean about your friend, then tell this someone he should stop it! I did it quite often, since when I was a child, and there were several bad situations following up… But regardless, I still stick to it. And afterwards, I never told the friend.

  2. Generally, no, I won’t pass on negative comments about a friend to that friend. There are exceptional situations for every rule, though. If it’s necessary for their health and well being, I just might.

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