In every culture, there are understood protocols about directly addressing another person whether it's to give a compliment, resolve a conflict, or share feedback. Addressing someone directly is about speaking to a person, not about them. Technology offers a plethora of ways to practice this, but without cultural awareness it's tricky. I like to think of it more as direct connection.
We all triangulate - about our coworkers, friends, family, and leaders. It can be helpful when we need to process our experience, get advice and guidance, or cool off before talking directly do someone else. Talking about someone is not a bad behavior in and of itself. I may talk about the accomplishments of another person as a way to credit them and sponsor them into additional opportunities.
But it can be harmful when we vent, start rumors, feel helpless, complain, blame and struggle to actually connect with someone we might be frustrated with. Then we get stuck, stay angry, feel disempowered, and want to avoid the whole situation. Additionally when someone has caused us harm, it may not be appropriate or safe to directly address them.
Leaders must be able to not only address, but connect directly with others when appropriate. This could be via text, messenger, email, phone call, video call, or in-person. Each modality holds benefits when used well. While the reality is we will always talk about others, leaders must be able to discern when and how to connect directly. They should become conscious of the criteria they use to determine when they talk about someone and when they talk to them.
The more you directly connect with someone, the more you get to know them and the ways they prefer to be connected with. Stay aware of how your cultural identities come into play. As an example:
Take some time to reflect on the following questions:
Direct connection isn't about imparting your feedback or opinion on someone else. It's the ability to come together with someone one-on-one - to nurture and strengthen the relationship between you. It's knowing how and when to reach out, initiate, repair and restore. It's knowing how to create belonging through your communication.