Monday 24 November 2008


I always say a general principle in life is never give information you don't have to.

People always say 'If you have nothing to hide, you shouldn't mind saying'.

Yes and no.

But the problem is that by answering a question, you validate the right of the person asking.
For example, if asked my sexuality, I will always say 'I'd rather not say.
Why, you might ask. After all, generally speaking, the reason why people might not choose to disclose their sexuality, is because of a lingering discrimination against minority sexualities. Since I happen to be 'heterosexual', why do I hide the fact by refusing to answer.

My reply? Because if the only people who declined to answer were homosexual or bisexual, then they're clearly identifiable by their refusal to answer. The only way to invalidate the RIGHT of the questioner to ask is if HETEROSEXUAL people refuse to answer as well.

It's always as well to establish these points- that people do NOT have the right to ask questions of you and you have the right not to answer. If you establish a precedent of giving people information you don't mind them knowing, then what is going to happen when they ask you questions you DON'T want to answer?

Ultimately, you are actually guarding your integrity. 'Them that asks no questions don't get told no lies'.

I tend to adopt that as a general life rule.
The best way not to be in a situation where you don't find yourself being asked questions you don't want to answer, is establish a precedent of not answering questions at all.

It's often said, for example, that trust and honesty is a vital part of any relationship. This is true of course. But that cuts a number of ways.

For example, my best mate has a key to this flat. Not only that, he has the password to this PC. He uses it when I'm out, frequently.
Furthermore, he knows I have a blog.
He knows the name of the blog.

For him to read posts on this blog would be so, so, easy.

But he doesn't. It's not just that he SAYS he doesn't- he clearly doesn't. It would be apparent, in little ways, if he had done.

So in a sense, it's about mutual trust. He knows he appears on this blog- he even knows under what pseudonym. But he trusts me not to reveal too much about him, and I trust him to know the name of the blog AND NEVER READ IT.
The fact he has the password to this PC is a huge act of trust on both our parts.

He knows, I think, if he ever read this blog, things could never be the same between us again. They couldn't.

Sometimes, that's what trust is about. Trust is about knowing someone can respect your boundaries.

In the same way, I have a general policy of NEVER answering any questions my parents ask. Or of giving totally neutral answers. 'How's work?' 'All right'.

Again, the reasons are clear. To keep a precedent going. If I was to start answering any of their questions about me in depth, then when it came to questions you don't want to answer, your reactions to these questions stands out.

My grandmother is the one who always likes to keep pushing the same question, cleverly hidden amongst the other seemingly innocuous ones. 'So- any special lady friends now?'
And she always gets the standard answer 'You're not a confirmed great grandmother yet, no'.
Covers everything, pretty much.
To answer otherwise would be stating something one way or another. And that is something I do not intend to do. So I have an answer which politely says 'Mind your own business'.
Variants of which work colleagues and others get...

You see, an important part of trust isn't just about honesty- it's about having our privacy respected. Our right NOT to have to give information to people when there is no necessity to give it.

People say that one of the main problems in relationships is honesty, but isn't it so often unreasonable suspicion? The unwillingness of one or other party to respect the privacy of the other?
That has generally been my experience. For example, man comes home to partner.

She: All right! Where you been?
He: I popped into the pub with some people from work.
She: Really? Who?

Now, I guess some people can't see what's wrong with this exchange. But something is. HERE, in this exchange, is the roots of a relationship DOOMED.

Unless she actually knows his work colleagues, being told the names of the people he went to the pub with won't mean a thing to her. So- what really, is the point in her asking?
To establish their gender.
It's a safety check on her part to see whether he went to the pub with men or women- or worse- one female work colleague on her own.

But it's stupid on her part. Stupid. Because he's clocked the reason, subconsciously. And it means that if at some point a female work colleague DOES invite him for a drink after work, for perfectly innocent reasons- like say, they just happen to be friends- he's more likely to hide it now.

And she'll pick up he's hiding things and get more suspicious.
And yet the things he's hiding are probably quite innocent.

Except of course over time, as her suspicions get worse, he really will find coming home to her increased questioning and her constant desire to pin down his every move just get too much.
And he really does end up in the arms of another woman.

And she'll believe she was right to be suspicious. It won't occur to her that the reverse was true.

She won't even realise, the trust was actually lost when she asked a question that didn't need asking and the answer to which provided her with no information other than whether he went for a drink with a woman or not.

That was the point where HE no longer felt comfortable giving her information of his own free will.

Trust isn't about knowing that someone will give us an honest answer. Asking the question is itself a sign of distrust, and how do people who show such distrust expect to be trusted? It might increase the short term peace of mind of the questioner, but it increases the distrust of the questioned.

Trust is about knowing you will always be told what you need to know- and knowing that someone trusts you never to ask you anything you don't want to tell them, that they know without asking that you will always tell them what they should know, when you are ready to tell them.

Sometimes, if we want people to trust US, we have to let THEM decide what they want us to know. We have to let THEM decide how much of their life they want to give us.
Because if we take it upon ourselves to decide that- How on earth do we expect to be trusted?


Anonymous said...

If that's your attitude towards women, then it's no wonder your relationships fail.

Anonymous said...

Ah, I think I begin to understand. Your principles are a massive shield to protect you from intimacy. No one could possibily live up to your standards, so when they fail your trust test by having the audacity of being insecure about having competition (from a man who doesn't believe in monogamy no less), you can turn around and blame her for not having the moral fortitude to trust you and this causing the rift in the relationship.

I'm curious. How many women have you been out with where the end of the relationship was ugly, mainly with her hating your guts and screaming at you about what a horrible person you are and you telling her it was her fault for getting the wrong idea/smothering you etc?

Anonymous said...

I like being honest and open. I like the fact that I am somebody who will share themselves, so we are definitely the opposite on this view.

I prefer people who are honest and open too - who will sit and swap stuff...that's how you strenghten relationships and connections with others.
My brother doesn't like to say a lot and gives nothing away and it infuriates me!!

Anonymous said...

i gotta tell you, i'm on your side here--and i've been in a relationship a very long time.

i can't imnagine being the person who is always asking "whatwherewhen"...and i'm normally happy to talk to The Girlfriend about things...and she's trusting enough to know she doesn't have to ask.

in the usa all of this is a matter of criminal law.

the police use the "if you have nothing to hide..." line constantly when interrogating suspects--despite the fact that silence is a guaranteed right under the constitution.

a famous series of supreme court cases gave rise to the "miranda warning", with which you may already be familiar.

i would not be inclined to answer questions other than the identification answers required by law just for the desire to stand strong with the constitution--and the fact that i have nothing to hide...or that i not an factor in that calculation.

finally, i've noticed in my personal life that i'm more likely to be told things because i'm the one who doesn't ask questions.

Anonymous said...

Crushed, I do so agree with you on not giving out information, especially not to companies and officials, but even generally. Not so much with friends though.

I have news for you though. I can think of a reason why someone might want to know your sexuality, They are maybe wondering if they can get in your pants ^_^.

The “nothing to hide” argument is always used to bamboozle people into giving up their right to privacy, or to satisfy idle nosy curiosity.

I usually go for the “prefer not to say” option, mostly for basically the same reason you do. I know they say they want to know to make sure they are being fair to ethnic minorities and homosexuals, but I think it is really dubious that they collect this sort of information and it is scary how much is out there and could be brought together.

I figure your Gran asks because she is naturally interested in knowing if you will be sending her genes into the future and hoping she will get a chance to see the next one in the relay. It sounds just a little mean to me, for you to answer like that.

Trust is very important in a relationship. If you have been bitten once with one person with another you still need to just trust again, no being twice shy there… OK you still be twice shy with the same person who bit you, but I do think I tend to naturally trust unless and until I get my nose rubbed in something, am I dumb?

Anonymous said...

i have some friends that read my blog and i guess it does temper the things that i might say here.

is that the reason why you don't want your friend to read your blog?

Anonymous said...

Bunny- :)

Who said they fail?
Everything is meant to come to an end some time. :)
I never expect them to last in the first place.

VicariousRising- Funny you should say that, it's often been side that there is a wide divergence in my two standards.
I don't have a problem with intimacy on one level, no. In fact I'm quite dependent on it. In fact, although I'm quite easy, it's not so much the sex that interests me as the physical intimacy. But the intimacy you're speaking about, no, I try to keep that separate from sex and I do set what are very hard standards as a pre-condition for combining them.

A few. I won't deny that. A few. Though oddly, the only woman I really loved got back in contact with me several years after and we ended up becoming quite platonically close again.

But yes, there is a club out there of exes who use my face as a dartboard. :)

Kate- Well, I think I am quite honest and open. I think I do give away a lot of information, to be fair, that most people don't. I think I'm FRANK.

However, where I'm going, what I'm doing and who I'm doing it with, is my business.

FC- Exactly, trust is kind of the key.
And anyway, ignorance really is bliss.

It's interesting what you say about Police interrogation. Of course, in this wonderfully free Police state they've gone and 'amended' (read practically abolished) the right to silence.

What it means is that the jury has the 'right to draw adverse inference' from your having NOT said anything.

The Police charge USED to read 'You have the right to remaim silent'. To this has now been added 'But it may harm your defence and if you do not say now something you later rely on in court'.

This always makes me ponder. Because the more I think about it, the more I think that actually, it would be far better if the prosecution couldn't use any statements from the defendant at all. That Police could still interview suspects to try gain information, but that they couldn't actually use their words in evidence. They actually had to have other evidence.

I think that actually would be a lot fairer.

And yes, as to your last point, I find that. It really is AMAZING the things people tell me.

Moggs- Well, as my ex flatmate said 'When I first met you, I thought you were gay'.
I asked 'For how long?'

She said 'Till you made eye contact'.

I actually always make sure they know I class myself as an ethnic minority, but I guess that's just to make a point. Whilst they list 'White Irish' as a separate ethnicity, I'll tick it every time.

It's not mean to answer like that, just honest. If one day I happen to be present at the birth of a baby, and the mother of that child has lived under the same roof as me, or for other reasons the paternity isn't in serious dispute, then I will take said child to might it's grandparents and great grandmother. Till then, the whole subject is none of their business. :)

No, I think you're right. trust until proven otherwise, rather than distrust until you're sure you can.

Easier said than done, but best to be open to it, I think.

Projectivist- Partly, yes. I mean my political opinions are no great shock to him. He knows all that side of me.
But I wouldn't want him reading the more sentimental stuff.
Or some of the posts where I talk about me and him. We're blokes, we hug eachother like men, we don't tell eachother how we feel. :)

Anonymous said...

About your Nan. I still say you are mean.

She has an interest in you ‘cos she loves you and wants what she sees is the best for you, she also has an interest in her genes I guess. Not a right I know, but there are ways, and ways, of doing things and saying stuff. Be Nice.

As for “I never expect them to last in the first place.”!!

Would you say the same about your relationships with your mates? I bet not…

Anonymous said...

I never ask more or expect more than the other is prepared to offer. Trust is the same as respect, it is earnt not given.