It isn’t fair to burden a friend with a juicy secret about one of your personal problems and then warn him “not to tell a soul”. That’s like giving a lollipop to a little kid and saying, “Now don’t lick this.”

If a potentially embarrassing situation begins to wear you down and you feel you just have to talk it over with someone, resist the urge. It’s better to discuss these delicate subjects with your dog who will listen sympathetically while you get it off your chest and get some relief.

This doesn’t work as well with cats or goldfish and never, ever discuss your private affairs with your parrot.

Some people have a way of rationalizing their clumsy handling of a friend’s secret. “When I told you about my problem you swore it was ‘in the vault’ and now I find it’s common knowledge all over town. Did you tell anybody?”

“Well yes I did, but very discreetly, and I told him, quite emphatically, that your problem was a deep, dark secret and not to mention it to anyone.”

It goes something like this. Your name comes up in a conversation between your confidant and another blabbermouth and your confidant says, “Oh, poor man, he’s got a serious problem. I could tell you a lot, but my lips are sealed. However, I can give you a small hint without breaking my oath.

The “small hint” becomes, after cross-examination, a four-paragraph detailed description of your problem which the secondary blabbermouth edits, adding his own colorful assumptions before forwarding, and the doctored version of your problem goes viral.

“Letting the cat out of the bag is a lot easier than getting him back in,” said humorist Will Rogers. Ben Franklin, in the same vein, said “Three can keep a secret if two are dead.” I’m not sure even that works. One potential tattletale is still at large and the dead ones might have left memoirs.

If someone tries to unload their scandalous secret on you, tell him you’re flattered, but you must decline because you often talk in your sleep and your wife might take notes. If they don’t accept this excuse, you can offer to arrange a private consultation for them with your dog.

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