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© 2013 Kebba Buckley Button.  World Rights Reserved.

Gossip, secrets, confidentiality

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In college days, I was aware that a transvestite acquaintance of mine had much to hide.  He hid from his parents his ability to groom as a woman and be completely convincing.  He hid from two West Point cadets that he was actually a man.  He hid from everyone I knew that his real name was “Jack”.  I hadn’t really thought of him in terms of his secrets, until I overheard him quip one day, “If you want something kept secret, tell no one but yourself!”  I have thought of that rule many times, closing my mouth when it was tempted to open and spill something that was confidential.

When I was an engineering manager, it was clear that no good could come from passing along personal information, even if the source didn’t say “[I]t’s a secret”.  Many factoids are simply no one else’s business, and factoids have a habit of changing when repeated.  Motivations get attributed to factoids they didn’t belong to.  A person going to an appointment became a person with a medical problem, and people guessed what the medical problem was, then shared that as a “fact”.  A surmise became “I’ll bet this…”, then became a fact, then became a whole set of facts.  Maybe the person was really going for an eye checkup, to get updated glasses, and the office had built the appointment into cancer.  At a brunch with 20 friends one day, a male friend surged up to me and asked, in a joyful, knowing tone, “[D]o you have something you want to tell us????”  After I said “no”, he kept asking.  We went around and around until I discovered the issue.  I was wearing a loose tunic, and he had built that into a pregnancy!  Everyone at his table at the brunch thought I was pregnant!  It was hard to undo that “secret”.

When I left engineering for holistic pain management, I volunteered at a center for AIDS patients.  My convictions about confidentiality became stronger.  At that time, a rumor that someone had AIDS could ruin their career.  Secrets that get loose can be very damaging, even if true.


Possibly the fuzziest negative about telling secrets is that there is now someone else thinking about it and processing about it; the secret will come back to you.  You have a touchy problem with an employee or volunteer or group member?  Journal it out, pray, discuss it with your sister several time zones away.  But do not create a local confidante—later they will bring it up and earnestly try to sell you a solution.  Since the issue was both tender and confidential to start with, it’s now even more tender (OUCH!) when your kind confidante brings it up and says they know just what you should do, and they ask for an update.  You will have to again violate confidentiality to share any update with them.

So here’s the bottom-line secret about secrets:  Save yourself a lot of trouble and don’t be in overshare:  Shhhh!  It’s a secret!


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● Kebba Buckley Button is a Master’s Degree scientist, a minister, and the award-winning author of  the 2012 book, Peace Within:  Your Peaceful Inner Core (http://tinyurl.com/abd47jr), and also Discover The Secret Energized You (http://tinyurl.com/b44v3br).  She also has a natural healing and stress management practice and is a celebrated public speaker.


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