Confidentiality: 2 extremes

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!!)


13 thoughts on “Confidentiality: 2 extremes

  1. “confidentiality” per se is an extremely relative term.
    I know of professional colleague of long standing, undergoing cancer treatment – he doesn’t want even close friends to see him ‘in this condition’!

  2. 1. I would like people to be like your neighbor.
    2. Among my personal and professional contacts, people are more like your senior.
    3. I am like your neighbor, wanting to take the information to my grave.

  3. Apologies, I guess I read the neighbor part wrong (read the post early in the morning with a foggy vision). Your neighbor didn’t want to know the confidential info only. I can keep a secret so I differ in that respect.

  4. And two of my close friends were like your senior, keen to show that they knew certain information about me which others do not and thereby circulated them without my permission. So they are not close friends any more.

    I would want people to be like your neighbor.

    And about most people I know, I will not be able to tell which category they would fall because I share confidential information with only four of my friends who are very close to me and I trust them a lot.. Other than four of my pals, I do not share confidential information with any other people. So not bothered about which category they fall..

  5. I have a strong stomach to digest all the secrets that my friends tell me :). Having said that, my curiosity levels in terms of other people’s lives is pretty low. I need to know only when my friends need to share!!
    But I do wish more people were as honest as your neighbors..

  6. Haha! I so relate to your neighbor. I had landed into situations where someone told me something and I didn’t know/realize that it was confidential, and I ended up sharing it to a third person. I had one-two friends, who were dear to me, lost because of this. And then I decided, I don’t want to know any personal stuff. Now, I don’t ask if I feel that the story is confidential. I let the person choose to share. And, now I think with time, I’ve also got the maturity to be able to decide what should not be shared. I think it was pretty petty and immature of your senior to be cross with you over this. That’s downright kiddish! 😛

  7. I think the neighbour was being wise. At least he knew that he won’t be able to keep the secret. so he didn’t want to know. Most people are like the senior though. They want to be kept in the loop!

  8. Hmm… This confidentiality thing can be tricky too at times! A friend got in a mess. I was the only one she told. This was something only a parent (or any understanding grown-up) could have solved. I kept it a secret and problem got worse. Finally she told her parents due to my constant bugging. Though the problem got solved, uncle/aunty was quite upset with me for not having informed them before. I still feel bad that my silence caused my friend more hurt.

  9. :).. I love secrets….in fact gossiping was one of my fav past time when I was in college…yes, I have gotten into difficult situations, those memories make me laugh out loud :)….I guess I am somewhere in between, I am ok if I don’t get to know a secret because it is up to a person to decide in whom he/she wants to confide.But, I don’t trust myself with a secret, that I can tell…..

  10. oooh I dare not say or talk about anything .. as confidentiality is taken very seriously here.. I work in a software house also, so we have had to pass exams and get ourself police verified to get this certificate that we are safe people.. 🙂
    I have got very good in keep things now 🙂

  11. Ohhh yes! And then there is that lot which cooks up stories by themselves and shares as first-hand information. One such incident was a family friend telling my parents that he had seen us at a movie hall. The fact was that we never met outside of office except on the day of our court marriage (that too after informing our parents). And the first movie we saw was 8 months after the marriage. Confidentiality is not everyone’s cup of tea. I loved your neighbour’s take. I don’t need to know what is not meant for me. And I don’t need to share what is not meant to be shared.

  12. When it comes to me, I don’t share my secrets with anyone, my own secrets lie buried deep within me….when it comes to others, i’m quite good at keeping things to myself…. I think, my friends confide a lot in me, because they know that…

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