Daf Yomi Bava Basra 39
A confidential matter was once discussed in the academy of Rabbi Ami. Twenty two years later, one of the young men (who was now one of the middle-aged men!) was at a Sunday picnic, and in passing happened to mention the incident to a friend. Word got back to Rabbi Ami, who was less than pleased. He called the man into his office and expelled him from the academy effective immediately (Sanhedrin 31a).
Rabbah bar Rav Huna taught: Any matter that is disclosed before three people demonstrates the speaker is not worried about bad talk.
Rambam explains: If any of these three then proceed to repeat the information, it is not lashon hara, as long as he does not intend to spread or amplify a rumor (Deos 7:5)
Hagahos Maimonios clarifies: If, however, the individual warns his audience not to repeat the information, even if there were many people present, it is still lashon hara.
If you want people to trust you, you need to earn their confidence. How do you earn it? By not being known as a talker. If people know you as the best source of ‘community news’ – otherwise known as the town yenta (and that’s a gender-neutral term!) – they will never want to confide in you. But if you are known as a person who doesn’t talk – even when something is public knowledge – they will entrust you with their deepest secrets.
Now you might be thinking, ‘I really don’t want to be everybody’s confidant. I want to keep my secrets to myself!’ Here’s the thing: Being a confidant for others doesn’t mean you have to tell them everything about yourself. Rather, it means that you become a trusted mentor to others. Someone that others can turn to for advice and direction at their time of need. When people know you to be trustworthy, you become known as a source of guidance and a person that can be spoken to in complete and utter confidence.
And that’s what you’re here for. To make this world a better place and help others fulfill their mission on Earth. According to the Kli Yakar, any time you give tzedakah, you earn a portion in the pauper’s subsequent service of Hashem. For example, if you buy a needy person a sandwich, and with that koach (strength), he puts on tefillin, you have a share in his mitzvah (Par. Mishpatim). Likewise, if you advise someone and guide them through life, you become a spiritual partner in their success. So the more guidance and positive energy you can provide to others, the greater your merit in this world!
Bad talk isn’t only speaking ill of someone else. It means repeating something that the other person would not want you to repeat. And it doesn’t matter whether three people know or the entire community or world knows. May you only speak positively and may you gain a reputation as a trustworthy confidant and a mentor to all!