Friday Requiem: I shouldn’t tell you this but…

Quick note for readers.  I think it’s important that I consider my back catalogue of posts to be part of the site and that they get maintained, looked after and followed up on.  So each Friday I’ll be picking a post I did from that week last year, and see if my opinions have changed, or find out how the story develops.

So last year I wrote this:

One of the most useful habits I’ve got into in the last few years is this.

When someone starts a sentence with “I shouldn’t tell you this, but-”, I stop them.

That’s pretty much the whole of it, but it’s such a useful little thing, I suddenly found I had fewer inconvenient secrets clattering around in my brain.

It turns out, when I look back over the times that people shouldn’t have told me X, that X has pretty much never been useful to me. It’s never made me happier, healthier, or richer. All it’s done, is that it’s meant that there is a least one person in the world who when I meet, I have to remember a fact, and then remember that I’m not to mention the fact and after going though that process I can then actually start thinking thoughts that are, you know, useful.  Really when someone is saying ‘I shouldn’t tell you this, but -” they are saying ‘I’m going to make life harder for you, while at the same time showing that I am fully aware that I am a poor friend’.

So yes, if I had to pick one habit that’s made my life better over the last few years it’s that one. If you want information, go to Wikipedia.

EDIT – two edits I need to make here, first of which is to clarify – this only happens about three times a year (I looks kind of ‘high school’ on first reading) and secondly it was pointed out to me that I only do this for social or personal matters – I’m all ears for industry gossip – I’ll have to change that…

I written it as a general – hey-this-is-a-kind-of-useful-thing-and-I-think-if-more-people-did-it-then-the-world-would-be-better-post, but, by a strange co-incidence, this week, I’ve actually be advocating for it as a phrase.

Let me give you a bit of background.  I’m currently preparing a funding proposal, similar to this one, about developing a privacy focused iconography for AAC users. We’ve been throwing some general ideas around about the starting points we might want to seed discussion with.  And to do that we were brainstorming phrases that might denote a particular cultural aspect of privacy…. Our list included

  • “Secret”
  • “I shouldn’t tell you this
  • “hide this”
  • “you didn’t get it from me”
  • “for your eyes only”
  • “Don’t tell X”

“I shouldn’t tell you this” has a distinct meaning in a terms of privacy and information exhanche and while I still think it’s something that sensible people should avoid, I do think that it’s something that people have a right to be able to express.  I’m actually interested in what people thing the building blocks are of privacy – are there phrases that you think encompass a particular cultural term?



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