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From time to time I'm brought into situations, both personally and professionally, where certain information is disclosed to me and I'm expected not to disclose it further. My own preference is definitely to be as transparent as I can about what I know, what I feel, what I'm thinking. So this frequently causes me various degrees of discomfort.

Of course, transparency isn't always good, even by my standards.There exists information that is legitimately secret, and reasonable people can disagree about specific cases. And there exists information that isn't so much secret as not talked about, because talking about it upsets people.

Several years ago, it was common for me to be chastised regularly for violating that social norm, both personally and professionally. But I have put a lot of effort during those years into learning to keep my mouth shut in situations where someone might be upset. The last time I recall was many years ago, being chastised for a habit of exploring unpopular ideas at meetings without consideration for the feelings of the people who are upset by those ideas, especially in cases where I think the ideas themselves are bad ones.

The thing is, I'm not entirely convinced that's a good thing. Bad ideas frequently contain excellent ideas that only get brought into general awareness by being discussed. And the habit of rejecting ideas -- even bad ones -- without discussion is a bad habit.

So... I don't know. I suspect I'm conflating importantly different things, which is one reason I'm writing about this... hopefully it will clear up in my mind as I think about it.



May. 5th, 2010 02:32 am (UTC)
I'm getting a lot of this, and will get even more. Not quite the same thing as what you're talking about, but not entirely unrelated either.

On the one hand, I have LOTS of privileged information about patients, legally protected under HIPPA. And I'll come to have even more when I'm actually doing counseling work with patients.

On the other hand, in my not-yet-professional-but-working-on-it role, it is often inappropriate for me to bring up perfectly valid and sensible ideas I may have, because patients/clients aren't generally there for practical advice on how to deal with their practical problems. And it's even more inappropriate for me to say, "yeah, I had a similar problem" (like I'm doing now to you) because [long detailed explanation by which I am convinced omitted].

So, yeah. Learning to squelch my instinct to say whatever comes to mind is big and important.
May. 5th, 2010 01:48 pm (UTC)
(nods) Absolutely. And that's a big part of being in a specialist role.

Admittedly, professional counselors (therapists, lawyers, doctors, etc.) are in a particularly weird area, as the boundaries of their role is often not well-specified.

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