The Secrecy Dance
I’ve noticed something very interesting about human behaviour, and how we keep secret.
Naturally, as a ‘professional’ (ish… not my word) involved in the collection of information about people, I am required to keep a lot of secrets. It wouldn’t do if I was to announce to the entire world that I treated Joe Bloggs on Friday when he cracked his head open while drunk. This would quickly make me very unpopular, and probably get me in to a lot of hot water. (Incidentally, if your name is Joe and you cracked your head open last Friday, trust me, it wasn’t me in the green and yellow jacket…)
A short time ago, one of my line managers (who I shall give the conveniently androgynous pseudonym Chris) had a brief conversation with me about their planning to step down in the near future. Nothing to drastic, but they didn’t want me spreading it around until they had made it public knowledge themselves. (From my point of view it was bad news, but that’s another story.) This was fair enough, and not exactly a difficult one to manage.
I then was on duty with another member (from now on known CycleGuy…), who also worked with this person. We were talking about this, that and the other, and the conversation bent around to what we wanted to do in the future. We’ve both just qualified as cycle responders (yes, yes, the posts are being written…) and involved in youth work (in my case a lot, in his case as a favour to Chris). I can’t exactly remember what was said, but it involved depending on a decision from Chris. Cue an awkward silence. I suspect he knows. He probably thinks I know. We’ve both promised to keep this to ourselves for a couple more days. Cue a conversation I’ve heard a thousand times before:
Me: When did you last speak to Chris?
CycleGuy (CG): Last night, why?
Me: Did you have a ‘conversation’?
CG: Possibly… What about?
Me: About them and the Organisation.
CG: Why? Did you have a conversation?
Me: Yes, a couple of days ago.
CG: About them and the Organisation?
CG: Was it, perhaps, about their position?
Me: Yes. About the future of it?
CG: Yes. They told you then? I wondered if you knew.
Cue much relaxing and less panic over breaking confidences…
Every time I get in to this sort of situation this conversation happens. A careful exchange of vaguely related data until we’ve both worked out that the other person knows what we know. A calculated risk, but worthwhile when it means we can talk to each other without being paranoid about saying the wrong thing.
Well, until I say something that was only meant to get to me, and drop myself in it anyway…