How to Spill the Beans

Posted on 2018 May 20


how to spill the beans quiet-nicubunu-Emoticons-Silence-face

Three may keep a secret, if two of them are dead. — Benjamin Franklin

A friend asks, “How’s your new job?”

You reply, “It’s okay.”

“It’s not great?”

“Well, there’s a lot of politics. I have to be careful.”

You friend nods. “I know the drill. Is it one person against you, or just the style there?”

You say, “It’s hard to talk about. It involves a confidential client. Big player, world-famous. I can’t say anything.” You shrug.

At this point, your friend’s focus is elsewhere. They’ve gone from “How might I commiserate?” to “WHO’S THE CLIENT?!?”

Secrets are powerful. Not knowing them means you’re out of the loop and not part of the in-crowd. Those who know the secrets are privileged; those who don’t are at risk from sudden bad surprises. Inside dope confers power and status, which lead to better resources, so knowing the secrets can bring about a better life. Thus we’re probably hard-wired to ferret out the social mysteries around us.

Your friend turns up the heat. “Hey, I’m your best friend. Don’t you trust me?”

Now you’re cornered. Besides, you’re yearning to vent. And the friend has pointed out that you need to trust those closest to you. So you set aside your scruples and share the secret with your friend. “This is just between you and me,” you insist.

Your friend nods. “My lips are sealed.”

The friend now has possession of an interesting and valuable secret. Your friend’s got dish. Unable to resist showing off the new-found knowledge — and reap the status benefits — your friend contacts a close companion. This other person is trustworthy — they’re friends, aren’t they? So the secret is safe with them.

The companion listens and nods. The companion now needs to think through the implications of the gossip, and meets with a trusted acquaintance. “I just learned something interesting. But don’t tell anyone!” The acquaintance pulls fingers across lips as if closing a zipper.

And so on. Pretty soon everyone knows the secret. 

Back at your workplace, the manager — career on the line — is angry and wants to know Which employee spilled the beans? You’re called into the manager’s office and interrogated: “Did you tell anyone?” 

Your face shapes itself into astonishment and indignation. “Of course not! I wouldn’t even think of doing that.”

…’Twas ever thus. 

The secret to spilling the beans, then, is to keep it a secret … between you and a trusted friend.