I really need you to keep this a secret, okay? You cannot tell another living soul. Really, this is extremely personal, so before we go any further, I need your solemn oath. I need you to swear to me right now that you won't repeat any of this to anyone unless you're stuck in an awkward conversation and you've exhausted every other possible topic.
Not a peep, understand? Not unless there's a really uncomfortable silence or something.
Frankly, I'm hesitant to say anything at all. There's a lot at stake here, and I'm putting my whole reputation in your hands. So, barring an instance in which you're the first person to show up at a friend-of-a-friend's birthday party while the host—who doesn't remember you've met previously—is still setting up, don't even think about opening your mouth.
I'm dead serious: This stays between you, me, and any exes of yours you haven't spoken to in years and happen to run into at the pharmacy while waiting to have a prescription filled.
I apologize for being so inflexible about this. It's just so important that you keep what I'm going to say to yourself and not humiliate me by using it as easy banter in a conversation that's already progressing smoothly and doesn't need any extra help.
Now, let's say you're stuck on a long elevator ride with a superior whom you don't know very well and have never spoken to outside the office. We've all been there. If making a good impression means hanging me out to dry by revealing the embarrassing anecdote I'm about to share with you, then of course, spout away.
But if he or she seems to be enjoying the story, and you're only halfway through it by the time the elevator doors open, then I expect you to stop short of telling the entire shameful truth, nod politely, and make an excuse that requires you to walk in the opposite direction.
I'm really counting on you to spare me if something like that happens.
You have to understand, this is sensitive information. I can't have you flapping your gums in front of old friends, close family members, or any other trusted party with whom you experience no social anxiety. If I found out someone heard these disgraceful details about me and it wasn't because you wound up in a setting in which your chronic introversion was making it extremely difficult to meet new people, I…well, I'd be devastated.
Waiting rooms, checkout lines, broken-down ski lifts—these are places where you'll want to keep the idle chatter flowing by throwing me right under the bus.
A little restraint on your part might actually work to your advantage. By breaking the story down into smaller chunks, you could deploy one fragment at a time and get through a whole series of excruciating pauses with someone you are forced to speak to on a regular basis but with whom you have no natural rapport.
Look, I hate having to burden you with this secret, especially when you're being kind enough to listen to me vent. But let me be blunt: I'm divulging this to you, and you alone. If word gets out, and it's clear people didn't hear about it from someone in a moment of awkwardness who found out about it from you in a separate moment of awkwardness, I'm going to know exactly who breached my trust.
Now, please, don't tell Janet I told you about this.