Thursday, 14 May 2009

A secret told to everyone

I've been on a few courses in which has been invoked the Chatham House Rule. It's interesting in that one can get a sense of what it means without having it explained, but basically it's "here's some stories I have that don't tell people you heard from me".

It's nice, and it's useful, as on those courses the stories people tell help illustrate whatever point is being discussed. Or, at least, help amuse. All in all, CH is useful to make the course more productive.

Then there's using it causally in any old meeting. Often (well, not that often, but more than once) someone has "under Chatham House, let me tell you...". Some of the time, this is helpful, and other times...

It really feeds into the want to gossip, the desire to show off what you know and to pass on interesting tidbits. Even if there was no Chatham House, this would have come up anyway, and even if not, I think people would talk any way.

I don't worry about hearing things under CH, as I have a lousy memory. More importantly, I think if the story really was that interesting, it would have leaked anyway. Secrets are very hard to keep secret if they are known to more than one person, and as I mentioned above, people like to talk.


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