A few years back, my ex-colleague informed me that he and his wife were going through a bitter divorce, and that his wife had been spreading unpleasant rumours about him among their common friends. He requested me to inform him if any unpleasant rumours about him reached our office. He also requested me to keep this information confidential.
I did not hear any rumours about this ex-colleague. His divorce proceedings were completed 7 months later.
One day, this ex-colleague happened to meet my senior. He informed this senior about his divorce and also mentioned that he had spoken to me about this matter 7 months earlier. My senior was extremely upset. He said bitterly that he was probably the last person in our company to learn about this matter, and asked me why I had not shared the information with him. I pointed out that this was my ex-colleague’s personal matter, and that he had explicitly told me to keep it confidential. As far as I was concerned, ‘confidential’ meant I should not share the information with anybody else. My senior was not convinced, and cold-shouldered me for the next few months!
A few days back, I met a neighbour at the supermarket. As we were chatting, my friend, whom my neighbour knows quite well, joined us. My friend excitedly told us that he wanted to give us some very good news, which was extremely confidential. My neighbour immediately told my friend, “Unless it’s absolutely necessary for me to know, please do not share any confidential information with me. I’m not very good at keeping secrets. Don’t worry! I will not be offended that I was not among the first few persons to know.”
Some people are like my neighbour. They respect the other person’s confidentiality.
Most people are like my senior. They have an intense desire to be among the first few persons to ‘know’. Some such persons are so keen to show others that they ‘know’ that they circulate confidential information among as many people as possible, taking care to tell each person to ‘keep it confidential’!
Would you like people to be like my neighbour or like my senior?
Among your personal and professional contacts, are more people like my neighbour or more people like my senior?
Are you like my neighbour or like my senior? (You need not share your reply to this question!!)