How to Comfort Those Who Said Too Much, and Encourage Them to Say More

Getting someone to tell you a secret is a task which isn’t completed once you attain the desired information.

Retroactive regret of saying a little too much is a seldom mentioned, but important, factor in the communicative realm.

In your efforts to gain valuable information from others, you’ll sometimes find yourself being a little too encouraging of its divulgence. You’ll tell people that they can trust you, and that you’ll keep your mouth shut. You’ll encourage them to tell you a secret, or two, by calming their anxieties about the risks involved in publicizing the information they possess.

As an individual gets caught up in the moment and divulges information they perhaps shouldn’t have, risks for the recipient of that information shouldn’t be overlooked. Your job, as the recipient of sensitive information, is to not only limit the anxieties someone feels in divulging information, but the regret that builds from doing so as time goes on.

This article is about limiting regret in those who’ve told you secrets they shouldn’t have.

The assumption being made on this page is that it’s strategically important to limit regret in the individuals who divulge sensitive information. A primary reason for doing so, is to supplement the process of building continued confidence in others to share secrets with you down the line.

Voice Their Unspoken Anxieties Out Loud to Align in Understanding

If you’re sympathetic to the individual divulging information for your benefit, you’ll likely be sensitive to their discomfort as they perform that act.  Having someone venture out of their comfort zone to do us a favor is both, a tricky thing to accept, and a hard thing to reject. Typically, the divulgence of a secret is an act which is executed with care. The person telling you the secret will have concurrent trains of thought running through their mind as they tell you what you desperately want to know.

These individuals will be ensuring they tell you enough, but not too much. They’ll try protecting others in their lives who don’t deserve their secrets being publicized, and they’ll be on the lookout for any risks they’d be incurring themselves.

With you breathing down their neck with your sensitive lines of inquiry, they’ll feel pressure from many sides of the equation. Even though they may seem willing to provide you the information you seek, they may very well be experiencing underlying anxiety and discomfort in regards to trusting you. Though they’d feel it, they’d be unlikely to mention their discomfort in the face of the social pressure to provide you with what you need.

Putting the pressure on someone in the context of asking them to divulge a secret seldom leaves room for a neutral reaction. Either the individual goes to reject your request, or abide by it. Those who abide by it however, can often feel uncomfortable doing so and become encouraged to avoid such situations down the line.

It’s important that you’re sensitive to the discomfort someone may be feeling whilst telling you the sensitive information you seek. Ensure that you’re tuned into how valuable the information at hand is to the individual divulging it. Be cognizant of how you’d feel whilst divulging information of that sensitive caliber.

As you feel yourself understanding the weight being placed on someone’s shoulders as they trust you with information you inquired for, become a voice for the anxieties they keep hidden out of respect for your request.

Expressing that you understand them to be taking a substantial risk in sharing certain pieces of information tends to lower their anxiety. Someone’s unspoken unease is dampened when they realize those they’re worried about to also be tuned into those same worries. Ensure that your counterpart in such a situation knows that you value the same things which birth anxiety within them.

Examples of voicing the anxieties someone may have around exposing secrets can look like the following:

  • “Listen, I know this is a sensitive topic and I’m going to be respectful of that fact.” 
  • “Trust me, this is staying between us. Things won’t be good if Devon finds out about this.”  
  • “You don’t have to worry about me. I’ll also get in trouble if Mark gets wind of what you’re telling me.” 
  • “You’re a true friend for telling me this, nobody else would have risked it.” 

Address Risks via Discrete Plans of Keeping Secrets Confidential

The regret people feel after telling you a little bit more than you needed to know about any particular topic will be centered around certain subjects within that topic. Such roots of regret can surround individuals the secrets you heard are about; things akin to the security of someone’s job, the risk of getting found out, or people being able to trace the leak back to the person who told you.

It is a requirement to know what specific topics are sensitive within the context of all the information you hear from others. Specific subjects, amid the general topic at hand, are what you should tackle from the perspective of limiting regret in the people who told you a secret or two.

For instance, if a friend of yours details another mutual friend’s process of going through a divorce nobody yet knows about, the subject of possible regret will be obvious. The friend telling you information about the divorcee will be sensitive to the divorcee finding out their trust broken. Detailing how you’ll make sure that the divorcee doesn’t find out about your knowledge of the information will thereby be helpful. 

Generally, people resort to the, “I won’t tell anyone, I promise,” approach. That action plan is general and difficult to place trust in. You should know what would be the most likely way the information might be spread. Who should you really not tell?

The process of voicing a proper action plan to keep information you just heard confidential depends on the infusion of detail. You’ll thereby need to ask people telling you confidential information questions as to whom they’ve told, who should not know, and who should really not know.

Your act of inquiring into the details surrounding the act of keeping information you just heard confidential will raise confidence in those who’ve disclosed that information.

After gathering the requirements for your plan of maintaining that confidentiality, voice the steps you’re willing to take to abide by the trust laid upon you. Generally, those steps should involve the detailed traps you can possibly fall into if you were to disclose that private information, and your detailed plans in limiting that from happening.

To end with the example about a mutual friend’s divorce from above, the following would be an effective way of curbing the secret spreader’s anxiety:

“I sit beside Julie at work so I’ll need to be very careful about giving out signs that I know what you’ve told me. It’ll be hard, because I feel sorry for what she’s going through, but I won’t put her trust in you at risk.” 

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Disclaimer of Opinion: This article is presented only as opinion. It does not make any scientific, factual, or legal claims. Please critically analyze all claims made and independently decide on its validity.