Tall Poppy Diaries

Observations and musings on life as a happy high-achiever (or what the Aussie's call a "Tall Poppy" ). "Unless you choose to do great things with it, it makes no difference how much you are rewarded, or how much power you have." --Oprah Winfrey

Wednesday, January 12, 2005


  Tall Poppy Basics Lesson 9: Trustworthy

Tall Poppy...

Is the most loyal and trustworthy friend one could find, though her closest friendships are usually reserved for other Tall Poppies who are, of course, the most loyal and trustworthy friends one could find.

Knows that those who prove to be untrustworthy shouldn't have the opportunity to disappoint you the next time.

Understands that just because it's in your head, it doesn't have to come out of your mouth.

Often remembers only sketchy details of the information she acquires, but doesn't forget the essence of the message.

Knows that if you prove to be a trustworthy sounding board and a good listener you will be told more than you ever need (or want) to know.

He who betrays the friend that trusts him is guilty of crime, even if his object be to serve another friend to whom he is under greater obligation.
--John Stuart Mill

Why are Tall Poppies so trustworthy? I think it's because they are more confident in themselves, less envious of others, and have less need to tear others down with gossip and innuendo. Tall Poppy collects extraordinary amounts of information. She sees and hears many seemingly unimportant facts that may or may not eventually prove to be valuable. But when collated in her mind, her knowledge bank gives her a very concise picture of her world, the players and their various agendas. Tall Poppy often notices things that initially seem unimportant but are stored away, nonetheless, and later prove to be crucial pieces to a puzzle.

There are also Secrets that are shared with Tall Poppy in confidence. Sometimes the informer specifically requests that the information be kept strictly confidential. Period. Sometimes the informer will simply ask not to be named as the source for the information. And sometimes the informer doesn't ask for the information to be held in confidence:

  1. because the informer trusts that Tall Poppy KNOWS the information is confidential, or
  2. because some of the information confided is confidential, some is not, and the informer trusts Tall Poppy to know the difference, or
  3. because Tall Poppy picks up on the clues to the secret, but the subject of it doesn't realize that Tall Poppy is "in the know", or
  4. because the informer is secretly hoping that Tall Poppy will spread the tantalizing secret in hopes of hurting someone else.

Tall Poppies handle sensitive information in a very different way than Weeds and Short Poppies. For instance, Short Poppies and Weeds (SPEWs, for short) use information as weapons. They don't use it to build themselves up; they use it to tear others down. Worse yet, SPEWs see building themselves up and tearing down others as one in the same, which makes any information they receive fair game to be used as they wish. SPEWs make v. poor confidantes. They consider information to be "theirs" once they know it. And if your friendship goes sour, they consider all secrecy bets "off".

In contrast, Tall Poppies rarely tell others what they know. They keep information in their heads and use it to understand people and situations. Knowledge is power. And, as Orange Poppy says, Tall Poppies use information for "good". For the most part, Tall Poppies treat information and secrets the same. They just keep them to themselves. However, they divide secrets into two categories.

  1. Those secrets that must be shared with someone in the TRUE public interest, i.e. a life or death situation (and feeling that someone "deserves to know who they're dealing with..." IS NOT life or death)
  2. Those secrets that should never be shared under any circumstances.

An example of #1 would be as follows: One of my friends was told in confidence that a young teenage boy in her neighborhood had sexually molested another neighborhood boy. Both boys had been friends of her son and she was asked to make sure that her son had not been molested as well. Some of the neighborhood parents who knew of the attack felt that it would be gossipy and 'un-christlike' to tell parents who were not directly involved in the situation about the molestation.

In my friend's mind, it was obvious that anyone with children (especially boys) who might be "hanging out" with the molester at some point needed to know about it. However, there were others who believed that my friend and others who agreed with her were being unfair to the molester. They didn't want to "ruin the boy's reputation". They wanted to keep the molestations a "secret" and move on. When my friend asked for my opinion on the matter, I came down heavily in her corner. Yes, the damage to the reputation of the molester could stay with him for a long time if the whole neighborhood was told his secret. But the physical and emotional damage he caused his victims and could cause future victims would be with them for a lifetime and was the greater concern.

Then, there are Secrets that should never be shared under any circumstances (whether the subject of the secret knows that YOU know about it or not) are those things that would hurt someone's feelings, reputation, or business but whose distribution would serve no important public interest. I remember when I was growing up and women (those who were her close friends and even those who Mom knew only casually) would come to her with their most painful secrets. There were many late-night calls and sobbing visits. She even got calls from the children of her friends asking for advice or consolation. There were many scandalous stories involving high-profile people in our community that were sorted out in our living room or over the phone long before they became public knowledge. Even after the stories became public, Mother wouldn't discuss the conversations she had with the parties involved. She was like a steel trap. What came to her stayed with her, even after there was no need to keep it inside.

I always eventually learned what had transpired, either by being nosey and listening to the conversations from afar, or by hearing the story once it became public and putting the pieces of the story together ("THAT's why Mrs. Jones was crying when I answered the phone.) I remember Mom telling me once, "I know that were listening to that phone conversation. I didn't make you leave. But now you have two responsibilities: 1) You must never repeat anything that you hear when I am talking to adults. Ever. And 2), you need to remember that you NEVER hear the whole story and if I'm on the phone you are only hearing MY side. Don't jump to conclusions about people based on parts of a conversation." Wise words, indeed.

All of us are at some point privy to information about other people that they would wish to keep confidential. Tall Poppies, because they are more trustworthy than many others, are privy to more secret information than most. Tall Poppy knows that unless someone's life is at stake, information that someone knows to be confidential and/or hurtful to another person should never be revealed.

I love this comment from Elisa on the "Discerning" post: "I have a former co-worker friend who cannot wait to IM me the minute he has learned some new tidbit about other colleagues of ours. Inevitably I tell him "Oh, yes, I knew that"He says, "What, and you didn't tell me?!"And then I say, "Now you know that I never tell anyone what YOU tell me either!" So true....

So what can we do to become more trustworthy in 2005?

One thing: Bite our tongues. It isn't necessary to tell others everything that you know. Knowledge is good. But having integrity is even better. The more information about other people that you are able to keep to yourself, the more information you will eventually learn. It IS possible to talk to people for hours without sullying the reputation of a single individual. And the sooner we learn to talk without tearing down others, the better off we will ALL be!

Listed on 
BlogShares Listed on BlogShares My Bloginality is ENFP!!!

< ? Blogging Mommies # >