Can you keep a secret? Most people cannot.
When a client or an associate shares a piece of information and asks that you not tell anyone, do you have an immediate desire to pass this tidbit along? Many of us have a tendency to want to tell somebody. For certain people, keeping a secret is difficult, if not impossible.
In the business world, as well as in our personal lives, the inability to keep a secret can have devastating effects. Loose lips sink not only ships, but also big deals with big money and careers on the line. Big mouths can also destroy personal relationships of all kinds.
Before you confide secret information, be sure that there is a good reason for the other person to know what you are about to pass along. If this person is a trusted advisor, you may want an opinion or other feedback. Maybe the secret information will affect this other person’s work or behavior in a positive way.
I have been told many things in confidence in my professional life that I had no business knowing, but associates felt a need to share. I have happened upon confidential materials left in conference rooms and on copy/fax machines. Once, I was accidentally copied on an email with confidential employee evaluations. In all cases, I did not share these bits of information.
When you have received confidential info, and have indicated that you will keep it secure, is it okay to share it with your spouse? That depends on whether you can be certain your spouse will not pass it along. A spouse may protect some information but be less careful with other knowledge.
Parents know that kids cannot keep a secret. Take a child with you when you’re buying a “surprise” present for your spouse and it’ll remain a secret for about two minutes when you get home. Some of us know that our older parents are not always as discreet as they should be. The same can be said of too many people in the world of business. And that’s even before they’ve had a couple of drinks. And that’s not considering the urge to share via social media.
When you have information that needs to remain secret, respect that secrecy. Be proud of your ability to keep it under your hat. Instead of the thrill that might come from sharing hot news, be gratified that you have the self-control and maturity to keep a secret. Not everybody does.