Dear Carolyn • I recently received some exciting, but private, news that I shared with my family members. Unfortunately, threatening to share sensitive information with others is a weapon some members of my family have used in conflicts. When I told each group, I explicitly stated my desire to tell the others personally. I recently found out that, despite my clear communication of my own expectations, one part of my family told the other. I'm upset they didn't respect what I had asked, but don't want to make this into a bigger deal than it is. Should I confront the "leakers"?
Dear Communication • Confront them, don't confront them, whatever you need to sleep well at night. But do recognize this: When you make expectations clear to people who use sensitive information as a weapon, you're essentially arming the nuke. If you want to retain control of your news, then either don't tell the leakers anything, or tell them all at once. Radical third choice: Stop caring who says what to whom. It's ultimate liberation from those who leverage gossip. However, for you to get there, you're going to have to take a long emotional journey, since you, too, leverage information by controlling its release.
Re: Controlling information • This hits a nerve with me since I'm also a person who shares information how I want to share it, and expects others to keep things private if I ask them to. Why do you think a desire to keep things private is such a marked negative thing? And why do you consistently link it to controlling behavior?
Dear Anonymous • Because it's linked to controlling behavior. It's one thing to ask occasionally for discretion. However, it's another to want the last word on anything said about you. And a need to guard information tightly, I've seen over the years, often stems from a general discomfort with letting things take their own course. If you look at any warning list of controlling behaviors, you're going to see a theme of discomfort with leaving things to others, which is really distrusting anyone not oneself.
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