Interrupt! Avoiding the "confidentiality" Trap

©robodread / Dollar Photo Club

“This is just between you and me.”

Whoever might say this to you shouldn’t be able to dictate what is confidential without your buy-in.

You need to get comfortable with interrupting people – at least in those moments when they come into your office and say “This is just between you and me.”, without you knowing what the topic is. Before you even have time to agree or disagree to the terms just transposed on you, they’re revealing information you’re bound to keep in confidence.

The problem is, maybe you shouldn’t keep it confidential.

For ministers, there are pretty clear guidelines regarding confidentiality in your role as clergy. (I’ve recently posted about the laws of clergy-penitent confidence.) But I’m talking about the other instances: the conversations people want to have with you when you’re not acting as spiritual counselor.

Whether it’s your brother-in-law or a fellow staff member, you need to set boundaries for these conversations.

Like you, I want to be a good listener. I want to empathize. But if I hear that line, “This is just between you and me”, I typically interrupt. My interruption sounds like this:

“While there’s a high likelihood I can keep this confidential, I can’t commit to that yet. Depending on what you say, who’s involved, and how it impacts my official role in this church, I may need to talk with others.”

I go on to say I’ll protect them as much as possible, and I won’t break confidence without first letting them know. If I’ve interrupted fifty conversations, all but one or two people have decided to go ahead and share with me what’s on their mind. And in about half of those situations, we’ve later agreed to include other people in the conversation.

Interrupting can be triangulation-avoidance, which is important for you as a leader. You can’t afford to be placed in the middle of a staff triangle for very long.

By being up-front about how you may choose to handle the information, it takes a lot of stress off of you if or when you feel the situation needs to involve others.

So by all means, interrupt.

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