Yes, I borrowed the title from a television show that sets people up with actors portraying situations of various conundrums. Some of the people do nothing and others actually confront the actors to weigh in on what they’re overhearing. And it has me wondering how YOU would handle the various situations I’m about to describe.
Let’s say you learned that a friend’s teenage son discovered that his dad has a secret. A big one. Your friend wants you to tell her how she should deal with the information. What do you say?
And what if you discovered that your boss was embezzling from the company? Would you report it even if it meant you’d most likely lose your job?
If you see a teenager stealing lipstick at the drugstore, would you tell the manager or walk away?
Or you accidentally witnessed your cousin’s husband passionately kissing another woman. While your instinct tells you that you need to warn your cousin, are you concerned that she might “shoot the messenger?”
Attaching a label, such as whistle-blower, gossip, or tattletale isn’t helpful. (Full disclosure: I am anti-labeling in general.) Of course, inappropriately sharing information can be downright dangerous, which is why police departments have secret witness hotlines. So, are we stuck with being the keeper of secrets? What’s the appropriate way to manage delicate situations that are thrust upon us?
In my mediation practice, I am entrusted with confidential information on a daily basis. And while I am both professionally and personally trustworthy, I have an ethical responsibility to report illegal activity, and I have a moral responsibility to protect children who may not have a voice of their own.
I believe this dilemma boils down to a case-by-case evaluation. Make sure to take adequate time to think about the consequences, both to you and to the people directly affected. Obviously, if someone’s personal safety is at risk, it’s a good idea to say something. Regardless, there are other things to consider when measuring your own involvement. What else is at risk? Your relationship with the other person? That person’s relationship with his or her family, friends, neighbors, or co-workers?
And let’s take a moment to factor ethics into this conversation, because they matter. Ethics are moral principles, and they can be as individual as DNA. Whether you are morally opposed to infidelity is only relevant to your reaction to it, and not to someone else’s decision to cheat. However, if you think stealing from the company is unethical, that may result in an entirely different course of action.
What would YOU do is obviously a very personal question which, hopefully, results in deliberate thought rather than impulsive action.
Have you ever been entrusted with a secret of massive proportion? Please tell me the secret in your comments. (Just kidding.) What I would really like to know is how you felt about it. Were you judgmental? Did you feel complimented? Was it a burden? And how did you handle it?