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17 December 2010

It's a Friday Night Question, chosen at random from The Book of Questions![More:]

(But before I post the question, I'll mention that the Friday Night Question will be on hiatus next week due to the holiday. It'll resume on New Year's Eve)

#105: At a meal, your friends start belittling a common acquaintance. If you felt their criticisms were unjustified, would you defend the person?
Acquaintance? I might, depending on the nature of their criticisms.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero 17 December | 19:46
I would. This doesn't happen to me socially all that much, but I work at a large company and it is GOSSIPY. (Hell, my whole industry is incredibly gossipy.) If people that I like start trashing someone else I like, I will speak up immediately and say, "You know, so-and-so and I are friends." If they want to discuss it, I'll defend the person, but usually that just stops the gossip, which is fine by me.
posted by BoringPostcards 17 December | 19:48
I would say yes (I go straight to the mat with anyone over just about anything as long as there's injustice being served, and I'm pretty quick to check the oil) but on second thought, it really depends on the host; politesse, all but dead, lives on only in table manners. I try to model my comportment on a certain fictional Gascon and his three steadfast companions.

I usually fail to hold my temper, bang a fist on the table, point a finger, and shout "We shall take this to the garden immediately, sir, if these ninnies will excuse us from this suddenly sour repast! If you don't have a lackey I will lend you my man; if you came here without a hangar you must have first choice."

And then I pink him in the first pass and send him comfortably home.
posted by Hugh Janus 17 December | 20:06
Hangar. Honestly, Hugh. Hopeless.
posted by Hugh Janus 17 December | 20:11
If unjustified then yes I would defend. Luckily though I'm friends with reasonable people who don't tend to be nasty and bitchy - at least if it's unfounded.
posted by gomichild 17 December | 20:47
I'd speak up whether the criticism was justified or not.
posted by punchtothehead 17 December | 21:05
Your answer still made me grin, Hugh.
posted by BoringPostcards 17 December | 21:05
I would. I hate people trashing people.

On the other hand, I don't remember the last time I went to a meal with friends. More than one, anyway.
posted by JanetLand 17 December | 21:06
I model myself after Hugh. Really, I could do a lot worse and not much better.

But generally my close friends don't do this, and when it happens outside my close circle, I don't hesitate to shut it down --- in my presence, anyhow.

That said, I know that it's perfectly normal to talk about others in their absence, and I often wonder where the line is between telling friendly stories and gossip. The guideline I use for now: if I wouldn't want the person in question to overhear, or if I'm getting a delicious dirty pleasure telling it, or both, then I DON'T DO IT. (That's the goal, anyhow.)
posted by Elsa 17 December | 21:12
Yes. Gently.
posted by Specklet 17 December | 21:32
I would join in, spinning ever more outlandish lies about them.

Then I'd lean in after shooting a conspiratorial glance over my shoulder and whisper, "And you won't believe what they say about YOU."
posted by BitterOldPunk 17 December | 21:47
Sure. I'd probably say something like, "so what do you say about me when I'm not around?"
posted by octothorpe 17 December | 22:00
I would join in, spinning ever more outlandish lies about them.

Then I'd lean in after shooting a conspiratorial glance over my shoulder and whisper, "And you won't believe what they say about YOU."

posted by Elsa 17 December | 22:11
Absolutely. And what Specklet said.
posted by amro 17 December | 23:01
If I disagreed with the criticism, yes, I would say something, but in a fairly friendly way ("Oh, I don't know about that...")

I totally gossip about people I don't like, though, so if I agreed or didn't care about the acquaintance, I'd encourage the belittling. I'm 100% loyal to my friends, and will defend them at all costs, but I'm (probably unfortunately) rather careless with people I don't like.
posted by occhiblu 17 December | 23:59
I'd totally call them on it.
posted by deborah 18 December | 01:12
Definitely. It happens less as I (and my friends) get older, but hearing others trashed behind their backs is one thing I really dislike. Do it a lot, and I won't trust you.

Generally I try not to say anything harsher behind someone's back than I would to their face. Which has landed me in trouble on occasion.
posted by altolinguistic 18 December | 08:11
This seems to happen to me a lot. I may consider people "trashing" other people when they're just being spirited and maybe constructive. But usually I say something because my opinions on a lot of things are pretty outlying anyhow, so people can both listen to what I say but not feel personally threatened by it. I'll generally counter with something useful/nice/positive about the person rather than going after the person who is doing the trashing. i always figure that sort of thing comes from a place of insecurity anyhow, no need to stoke it.
posted by jessamyn 18 December | 14:02
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