Written by Amber Fuller, LMFT and owner/clinical director of Fuller Living
“That’s classified information”, we’ve all heard the term. But what does it mean? Well, I believe that we can sum it up pretty well by saying that it means that only certain people get to be in the know on whatever the information is. It’s private. Not just “anybody” gets to know. When we hear the term, I don’t think it’s common for people to think, “well why can’t I know?! I deserve to know”…no, we accept it as a pretty standard rule and don’t question why we don’t get to know.
Why am I talking about this and starting a blog off this way? Well, because all too often I’m having conversations with people where I’m finding myself having these words fall out of my mouth, “It sounds like you need to create healthy boundaries around information sharing”. Here are some examples of the stories that I’ve heard that require boundaries around information.
Sally walks in and says to me, “you wouldn’t believe what happened this weekend! My sister went and told all of her friends that I’m pregnant. I told her in confidence and I expected that she wouldn’t tell anybody, but she did! Again! I can’t believe she did it to me again! I thought I could trust her, but I should have trusted my gut telling me that she would tell the whole world. She literally does it every time”.
Tony walks in and says to me, “I feel like absolute crap! I told my boss last week that I was upset with a coworker of mine because they were talking about me to other employees. Come to find out, my boss went and confronted my coworker and ended up HIMSELF talking about me to the coworker. Then the coworker got mad at me. The last thing I wanted was for my coworker to find out that I was upset. Now they are going to gossip even harder”.
Judy walks in, “I told my mom that I was having issues with my marriage. She went and told my sister, my grandpa, and my dad. I thought I could trust her and now I’m devastated and feel like I can’t trust anybody”
I’ll use a personal example as well. About 6 months ago, my husband and I were SO unhappy with the management company of the apartment complex we were living in. They were doing extremely unethical things and also handling Covid in a really unprofessional way. We had expressed that we were unhappy to the apartment manager, but nothing more than that. We found ourselves being pulled into an office where she asked us why we were so unhappy and if there was anything that they could do to help. After giving concrete examples and facts she responded by “apologizing for the way we were feeling” and when she was called out on how insincere this was, the conversation just tanked even further. There was no responsibility taken and in fact their criminal actions were being justified by this woman. Well, we are moving out and we gave our notice. When we had given our notice they had asked if there was anything they could do to get us to stay. We responded with silence, because we already knew that information in their hands just meant more abuse. We learned this the hard way, but I’m glad that we at least learned it.
Do any of these stories sound familiar? Can I just say that I am SO sorry that this has happened to you, if it has. We need to talk and here’s what I have to tell you. I’m here to tell you that you have absolutely every right to create healthy boundaries around who you share information with. Creating boundaries is sometimes a natural consequence to the actions of those around us. If somebody has betrayed your trust and shown you that they can’t be trusted to keep a secret or information just to themselves, then why share it with them? I want you to know that you are worthy and deserving of holding these boundaries.
When I think of information sharing, I think of a 4 ringed circle. The people on the very inside of your very inner circle get to have access to the information that is sacred to you. The information that would hurt you if you found out that somebody else found out and you weren’t the one who told those other people. The people who go on the inside of this circle are people who have always kept a secret and have never gossiped about you or repeated the things that you’ve had to say. We all need at least one of these people in our lives. Whether it’s our spouse, therapist, best friend, or mentor. We need one, and not necessarily more than one, but at least one.
Then we move to the inside of circle number 2. These are the people that get to have access to information that matters to us but is less vulnerable than the information in circle number 1. This information goes deeper than the weather, but not as deep as your most recent break up. These conversations look like maybe your theoretical beliefs, your values, your religion, which are all personal things, but not information that would necessarily hurt you if you found out that circle #2 people were talking about you.
Move then to circle number 3. These are the people who only get to have information like what you think of the weather. They are the type of people who, when asked how you’re doing, you respond by simply saying, “good”. These people usually end up in this position because they’ve gossiped about you or can’t be trusted, but you are still invested in your relationship with these people. These people can’t be trusted with your secrets, theoretical beliefs, or even your home address. But they still get to be involved in small capacity in your life.
Then you have your ring 4 people. These people are people that you avoid. They are people that you can’t even talk to about your boundaries because they will just hurt you more when they find out your boundaries. These people are the toxic people in your life. They hardly get to even know your name. These are people that you need to protect yourself from. These are people that also use your information to their advantage through “one-upping you” when getting information from you. They shouldn’t be trusted with your heart. I believe that the Lord can do a good work in your relationship with these people, and also, you need to be very smart and cautious with these people. Love them from afar.
I know that it can be hard for people to not share important information because loneliness ensues when we don’t connect with people. It’s important to remember though, that you will feel even more lonely if you find out that your #4 circle has just used the information that you gave them to hurt or “one up” you. Rather than investing in these relationships, invest in the relationships with those that you can trust. Don’t give up completely on these people, but take care of your heart in the midst.
It can sometimes be difficult to identify what part of the circle a person gets to belong in or whether or not a boundary needs to be created. The best way to know whether or not an “information boundary” needs to be created is if you’re talking to somebody and you find out information was shared without your knowledge and you find yourself feeling, “ouch! My hear hurts” or “geez. That bothers me”…it’s in these moments that your soul is trying to tell you that you need to create a boundary.
If you are having difficulty creating boundaries, identifying who your “inner and outer circle” people are, we at Fuller Living would love to help. It can be traumatic also to be gossiped about or having information shard that you never wanted shared, and we would be honored to process these traumatic events with you.
Boundaries around information sharing is important! You’re deserving of having good boundaries!