Have you ever confided in someone at work, only to discover what you shared got spread to other people?
Every now and then we all need to know that it’s safe to talk! That discussing sensitive information won’t backfire on us or anybody else. We all have a need to say, “I’m sharing this with you in confidence”…and have full confidence in that confidential space.
Consider what happens when someone talks privately with you about an area where they feel vulnerable. About a piece of work they’re engaged in and they’re not sure they have what it takes. About a goal or an ambition they secretly hold. How they’re wrestling to be at their best because they have a daughter at home having a meltdown.
Confidences have context that can be easily lost.
Information is shared with you within the context of your relationship; your shared history. Perhaps even understanding of one another’s lives outside of work. The confidence is wrapped in rich context.
When secrets get shared outside this trusted relationship, part or all of that context is stripped away. People only get the raw news. The raw story. The Cliff’s Notes version. Sensitive information shared absent context can lead to misunderstanding, misdirected decisions, tarnished reputations, lost opportunity, breached trust, and betrayal.
This can be true even if what’s shared is good news — news others welcomed, but that the “owner” of the information simply wasn’t ready to share with the individual involved, much less publicly.
Honoring confidences builds trust.
Be the trusted sounding board for other people. Serve as a vehicle that helps people get things off their chest, gain perspective and clarity, and move through challenging situations. To regain their footing and renew their confidence.
Give people the gift of knowing that what they’re working on (or through) won’t be put at risk by your indiscretion. Be the person it is safe for others to turn to.
• When someone shares something with you in confidence, honor the privilege.
• Remember that even good news should be kept confidential. Give the ‘owner’ of the news the right to share their information in their own time, in their own way – and allow the recipient the joy of receiving it.