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Thursday, February 21, 2008

How to lose someone's trust in less than 10 seconds

I'm really very grateful to that student from Eastern Europe whom I met in Japan last year. I've talked about her before - she's the one who unintentionally taught me that speaking badly of someone behind their back is fundamentally wrong, and to do so in order to somehow make oneself look 'good' in the face of others is a sign of a thinking that could be seen as flawed.

I was reminded of this twice last week.

The first time, it was me that made the criticism. It wasn't intentional on a conscious level, and I didn't really realise what I'd done until the person I critisised in a mail to another friend replied to me (I had deliberately BCC'd them for various reasons, including wanting to maintain transparency), saying they were not happy with my public display of disrespect. I was profusely apologetic as I recognised that I had spoken ill of them in front of another (albeit unintentionally), and naturally, this shook their trust in me. I was genuinely sorry, and have since done the best I can to make up for my mistake.

A couple of days later a class mate sent me a link to this article.
Facebook can ruin your life. And so can MySpace, Bebo...
What struck me about this was not so much the horror of companies using info they find online against you, but rather, the lack of judgment on the part of those who post criticisms of others for the whole world to see! I see it as only natural that should they do such things, they feel the consequences. Negativity Breeds Negativity, You Get What You Give etc.

I know I'm no saint; this site probably contains quite a bit of criticism of others - but I think where there is some, it will not be personal, and / or it will not be current. Bad-mouthing people feels fundamentally wrong, and to do so for short-term gain is just plain silly.

Anyhow, with this as background, you can imagine my sadness when last week whilst in the pub (even I take time off sometimes!) a friend, whom I had had a lot of respect for, started to talk about how they really didn't like another Japanese Studies student, how that person looked silly, and did stupid things etc.

I was really taken aback. Here was someone I trusted, and someone I liked a lot, demonstrating that they clearly did not deserve that trust. Whilst those around may have laughed and played along, what was the lingering feeling? Here is someone who, when your back is turned, does not play fair, and thus someone who cannot be trusted entirely.

Of course this person isn't alone in behaving like that. I'm sure the vast majority of people on the planet have done it at some time or other. I myself included, of course. Although I have never been fond of bad-mouthing, until late 2006 I had not made a promise to myself to never indulge in such games. Having made that conscious decision I find myself feeling a lot more positively towards others who might otherwise become the butt of my criticism, my frustration, my anger. By not going down that road of focusing upon (what I may perceive to be) 'negative' character aspects, and by instead attempting to understand that person and why they may be behaving in such a manner, one can develop sympathy, care, compassion and love for them (obviously not romantic love as *Twinkle* would whip my arse). This is turn can lead to great friendships, and possibly even a change in behaviour in that person as they come to appreciate that (in these circumstances), they don't have to be on the defensive as they are being accepted for who they are.

I know this is all really common-sensical stuff, but this last week I have seen it being 'forgotten' by myself, by a friend, and by the wider internet community - thus my desire to write about it.

I don't know whether or not the friend in question reads the mumble (not if they have any sense!). I'm not being critical of them in the slightest as I know that I have been there too, and also, we are exposed to such a barrage of outrageous personality assassinations in the media that it could also be thought of as natural that we behave in such a manner ourselves.

Ho hum.

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