I have a friend who is currently going through a big life change. She contacted me to arrange a catch up, saying she had something she needed to talk to me about. Although I had a fair idea already what the issue was going to be, was still somewhat surprised when she broke the news. I asked her if this was confidential information.
Sharing confidences seems to me an integral part of female friendship. There is something special about feeling trusted at this level about personal ideas, issues and happenings of the life of a close friend. Also, when you share friends in common, the last thing you want to be doing is gossiping! This can be a tricky circumstance to navigate! On the one hand, the person entrusting you with the information expects that you will not be sharing it with the others, however some of the others will be upset to learn you knew and never said anything. What you share, with whom, and equally what you choose not to share, can really dictate where your loyalties lie. This is true whether you intended it to be or not!
Thankfully, my friend indicated that it wasn’t really confidential information, because everyone was going to find out soon enough anyway, but she wanted me to be one of the first to know, out of respect for our close friendship. She didn’t want me to hear it as secondhand information from someone else. I know it sounds silly, but I can’t deny that this meant something to me. Perhaps my friend just knows, understands and accommodates, how “sensitive” I can be to these perceived signs… but I don’t think I am alone in feeling this way. I would have been hurt not to hear it from her, even though I knew it was coming.
There is a certain order of things in female friendships that you must respect. It is mostly unspoken, yet widely accepted. Who is among the first to know is key. It is a symbol of how close you feel, and wish to stay with a person. Similarly, who you don’t tell speaks for itself too. It isn’t always a shock. If an acquaintance finds out through the grape vine, then she probably won’t be surprised or hurt by that. If however she thought you were close friends, your act of not telling her directly would put her in her proverbial place. Weddings, for example, can be really damaging to women’s friendships for this reason too.
Although my friend said it wasn’t classified information, she also said she was going to start telling people soon. Out of respect for her, I said I would leave it to her to tell her story to the others. Telling them may have been misconstrued as gossip, either by her, or by anyone I told. Added to that, I may make my own inferences about the reasons based on private conversations I have had with my friend, that she may not want repeated to the others…. Or which she may not feel were accurate at all. Essentially it wasn’t my secret, nor my story to tell.
It wasn’t difficult per se, not to tell the others…. But I did wonder if I was crossing a different line in my other friendships by choosing NOT to share the information. The act of telling is just as indicative of trust is the act of not telling. Not telling to respect the person who told you, may result in disrespecting the person you chose not to share with.
Thankfully, after she told me, my friend swiftly started sharing the news with the others almost immediately. Because we are all mature adults, (or trying to be at least! Lol) the focus was on concern for our friend and not so heavily on when we were told, by whom. Of course, it did come up in conversation, but it doesn’t matter AS much if you were the first to know, as much as it matters if you were the LAST to know. Neither of us were, thankfully.
Of course, the conundrum doesn’t end there. Now you both know, and you know in what order you knew. Are you now allowed to discuss the issue? Is that gossip? Is that disrespectful? I won’t lie, myself and another friend did discuss it once we both knew of the status quo. However I feel we navigated the conversation pretty well. We expressed mutual feelings of surprise, concern and even happiness for our friend and directed the conversation towards more general topics surrounding the issue rather than focusing HEAVILY on the more private details of our friend’s situation. She will tell us what she wants us to know.
When it comes to the order of things, you have to respect that someone else’s order is their own to choose. Their secrets are their own to share, stories are their own to tell and crosses are their own to bare. Do not get involved in someone else’s order. Think of what you would want them to do for you in similar circumstances. If you are close friends with someone else who isn’t being told, hopefully they will understand and respect the position you were in and think more highly of you for not speaking out of school than pressure you to break someone else’s confidence. After all, they wouldn’t want you to break theirs either.
When it comes to your own order of things, choose wisely. Do as my friend did and know that who you tell directly, and who are amongst the first to know, matter. Acknowledge who may be hurt if they hear it from someone else, and who is likely to keep your order and who isn’t. Be just as aware of what you say as what you do not say, and what this all implies. It sounds so complicated, but it really isn’t.
Your Best Friend ForNever