Thursday, July 7, 2011

Confidentiality Means...Jaw Flappers Not Allowed!

Occasionally that motor mouth of mine can utter something that is truly profound. This morning marked one of those rare moments. As I was telling Jan about a longtime friend who is experiencing a personal crisis I made this observation: People in crisis don’t need jaw flappers. Translated from John lingo it means that individuals who are struggling don’t need friends who break confidences. How many of us have asked a friend not to repeat what we have shared only to discover that it was communicated freely and extensively?



When it comes to confidential communication, we need to mean what we say. In other words, if I tell someone that I will not repeat what they have shared I must honor it. That means there are no exceptions. I don’t tell my spouse or my best friend or even the dog. Confidential means just that. The content of such interchanges will not be disclosed or even mentioned. Consider it classified information.


Another phrase that is sometimes used to refer to confidentiality is privileged communication. Consider the content of that expression. It suggests the idea of a limited audience. You are privileged to hear it. That makes you a privileged character. Such individuals don’t take their role lightly.


Trust is fortified when we train our mouths to remain in park. Several years ago I had an administrative assistant that worked for me who had a unique way of handling privileged communication. This particular lady is as blonde as blonde comes. But don’t think for a minute that she fits some kind of “dumb blonde” stereotype. She is very sharp and alert to the inclinations of human motives. When people would come into our office on a fishing expedition searching for information that in all likelihood should be kept private, she played the dumb blonde act. She acted like she was oblivious to all of the human drama that was staged before her everyday in the office. That was her way of warding off people searching for information that was not intended for their ears.


I don’t know what methods you will choose in order maintain the integrity of your privileged status. The dumb blonde act may not fit your persona. If you want to preserve trust in the important relationships in your life, you better formulate some kind of confidentiality plan and be prepared to implement it. People on fishing expeditions are lurking everywhere! Your demeanor should communicate non-verbally that jaw flappers are not allowed.

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