In light of the above (see Day 98), if one must inquire about a person, family, community, or school in order to make an important decision, but does not want others to know what he is contemplating, he may not engage people in casual conversation with the aim of obtaining pertinent derogatory or harmful information. Unaware that his speech is constructive, the speaker is guilty of speaking loshon hora, and the listener who drew him into conversation has caused him to sin.
Thus, when soliciting necessary information, one must make it clear to the other person that circumstances permit this and that his response, therefore will not constitute loshon hora.
A common practice in such situations is not only to refrain from divulging the purpose of the inquiry, but also to inquire about several people at once, so as to conceal the fact that it is a particular person about whom one is seeking information. This is absolutely forbidden. The desire to protect one’s privacy does not justify irrelevant negative information and causing others to speak loshon hora.