How to build trust: keep a secret

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There seems to be a tendency on the part of people to share juicy bits of information about others. Maybe it’s because people want to appear informed or love the reaction they get when they expose someone’s deeply held secret. But the price for such story telling is broken trust. Learning to keep a secret can strengthen the bonds of friendship and make the difference in lasting relationships.

  1. When a friend, colleague, or employee shares a confidential matter with you, never divulge the information to a third party. It took a lot of courage for the person to open up and discovering that you broke that confidence could be devastating.
  2. Show genuine concern for what has just been revealed to you. Treat the matter with great sensitivity even if the matter seems trivial to you.
  3. Discuss options if there is a problem to be solved or a solution that needs to be developed. Be careful that you don’t jump too quickly to offering solutions. You may give the impression that you don’t fully understand or that you don’t think the problem is very significant.
  4. Assure the person that the secret is safe. You do that by empathizing to convey that you truly and sincerely feel weight of what has been revealed to you.
  5. Keep your promise. Imagine what it would feel like for someone to expose your deepest secret to a third, fourth or fifth party.
  6. Follow up with the person at a later date to check on the status of the issue. This tells the person that you are still concerned and you did not take the matter lightly.
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