In many business instances, it is vital to keep your mouth shut. There is just no polite way to say it, as it is that simple and that important. Unfortunately, discretion is often not observed, generally with terrible results.
While there are many situations that demand discretion, let me visit just two. The first is when you and the other party(ies) in a proposed deal agree that confidentiality is to be formally invoked. Whether the agreement is called an NDA (nondisclosure agreement) or CA (confidentiality agreement), it basically says that the parties agree that certain things one party is providing the other are sensitive and are to be shared with no one else. At times, even the fact that there is a confidentiality agreement is considered confidential.
There are as many different NDAs as there are companies and lawyers, but all basically say the same thing – you will keep your mouth shut. Most NDAs are “boiler plate”, but even some of these boiler-plate agreements can be quite onerous, so if you have any questions about an NDA, consult with your lawyer.
If you break a confidentiality agreement, besides legal ramifications, you could also harm, or kill, a potential deal. If you agree to keep things in confidence, you must keep them in confidence. This is absolute. You cannot tell your best friend, parents, spouse, kids or anyone else, even if you first tell them that this is really “hush hush” information and not to be repeated to anyone. If you told, then why shouldn’t your confidant share the same information on a “hush hush” basis? Just don’t tell anyone!
A second situation where discretion is imperitave is when you have important information that you want to share with people who don’t need to know. You might be busting your buttons with pride and excitement over a development, but before you tell anyone, think about what they need to know. If they don’t absolutely have to know, don’t tell them. If you find that you “just have to share good news,” couch what you say very carefully, without naming names and certainly without mentioning terms.
The old war-time saying of “loose lips sink ships” is applicable to deals as well. Just keep your mouth shut. Smiling, however, is allowed.