Whenever we learn that someone was 'talking behind our back' we immediately think they were saying something bad, and that may be true.
But sometimes people say good things, and those good things can be pretty important.
When I first started blogging, and gushed to a business adviser that people liked what I was writing, she immediately asked, "Are they people you know? When people you don't know start to respond, then you'll know you have something."
Not what I wanted to hear, but I got it. People we know may tell us they like our work because they don't want to hurt our feelings. Or, on the positive side, because our writing is an extension of who we are, of course they love what we've done. The trick is for our voice to be compelling enough that when a reader has only our voice, a single piece of us to respond to, it still speaks to them.
But I digress.
Some months ago, I'd recommended to a professional colleague that he hire a contact of mine. This past week, as a post-script to an an e-mail exchange on a completely separate topic, he wrote, "Heather is doing such a great job. I'm thrilled that she's working with us."
I forwarded this compliment to her. Not surprisingly, she was delighted. Would it have meant something had he delivered this praise directly to her? Yes -- absolutely! And knowing him, he probably has. But a spontaneous, heartfelt, and nothing-to-be-gained compliment channeled through a 3rd party? It was unvarnished, and now twice given, because in passing along this compliment I was implicitly agreeing with him: so very affirming.
We hear nice things about our children, husbands, co-workers, and friends all the time. A few laudatory words can be such a pick-me-up, especially on days when we wonder if we'll ever achieve our dreams. What if we were to more deliberately relay these accolades, rewriting the meaning of 'talking behind your back'?
I'd like to try.
And whether or not it puts a smile on their face, I know it will put one on mine.