Tuesday, October 10, 2006

When Not to Talk

I'm a big talker, as you may have noticed. I talk to people live, on the phone, and on the internet. I talk in blog form, participate in discussion boards and forums, comment on other blogs and so on. But there are times when it is better not to talk. We all know that gossip is bad. But it's a bit like caffeine, sure it's not healthy but it's so much fun while I'm doing it. And of course there is such a fine line between sharing information and gossiping that you can be over the line and around the corner before you know it. If I share with a friend that another not present but mutual friend is getting married, it's not gossip. But if we start talking about how she's made a bunch of crappy choices in men and we hope this one works out better, gossip. So my straddling the line kind of solution has been to try not to say anything that I would mind circling back. This is not to say that I always succeed, but that's what I'm trying for.

And of course there are scenarios where confidentiality comes in to play, either professional or personal. My job carries with it fairly basic confidentiality and it mostly surround the data I have access to. I can only imagine how difficult it would be to tell work stories if my job required stricter confidentiality. And there's always when we receive information in a scenario where we have promised to keep quiet. And that can be hard, because other people may ask you innocent questions and you may get to parse out what you learned when and where and what can you safely say.

In a similar vein, I try to be cautious about what I share about people I actually know since this is my blog not theirs. And - unless they do something newsworthy - they have not agreed to make their lives available on the internets. Now there are exceptions, I have certainly talked about family members, but usually in a direct context to me, rather than so you'll never believe what my brother did. Which has been interesting for me, trying to figure out where that line is between stories about me that involve other people and stories that are the other people's.

And then there's other stuff. Stuff I hesitate to talk about because I don't want to add to it. Some people seem to make really good careers out of saying things just to raise ire. On forums and discussion groups these people are called trolls, but if you get paid to do it people don't seem to call you that so much. And sometimes, I just don't want to give it any more time - not mine or yours. Certainly I am not under any impression that my little blog is being monitored by pundits and newsgatherers, but I don't want to keep it out there sometimes.

As a younger person I firmly felt that it was my duty to correct any errors I found and to try to educate all the misguided people. I have softened a bit now. So now I try to find the balance, trying to talk and educate in a way that is helpful rather than superior seeming. To recognize that there will always be people who feel differently than I, and just because I don't agree with their reasons doesn't mean that one of us has to chang eour minds before the conversation can end. And that some people, don't want to learn more. (Some people do, I'm just trying to figure out which ones.) And diversity of everything, including opinions, makes this world so much fun.