SEFER CHOFETZ CHAIM — Laws of Loshon Hora 10:7-8
We have learned that one of the seven conditions for speaking loshon hora l’toeles (for constructive purpose) is that the speaker first rebuke the guilty person privately in the hope that he will correct whatever it is that he has done wrong.
What if it is clear that this person will ignore any rebuke? The Chofetz Chaim informs us that in such a case, one can bypass this condition and go directly to those who he feels should know this information.
However, if this is the situation, then a new condition needs to be fulfilled. The negative information must be related in the presence of at least three people. The Chofetz Chaim explains why:
If the speaker does not rebuke the perpetrator and relates the information (l’toeles) to only one or two people, he will be defeating his purpose. He appears to be revealing the information in a secretive way so that the subject will never know of his report and will remain his friend. His listeners, therefore, will suspect him of lying, of fabricating the report to make that person look bad while keeping it a secret from him.
This is not the case when he reveals it before three people. We have already learned (Days 29- 31) that a group of three or more is considered a public forum, and whatever is said in such a setting is virtually certain to become publicized. Therefore, by speaking in front of three, the person is making it clear that his intentions are pure. He knows that eventually his report will reach the ears of the subject. Nevertheless, he is relating the information for the constructive purpose which he has explained to his listeners.
The Chofetz Chaim notes that though the listeners can act upon the information, they are permitted only to consider that it might be true, but they cannot conclude that it is true. They must allow for the possibility that the speaker may have overlooked a critical point which would change the nature of the report significantly.
Therefore, says the Chofetz Chaim, it is forbidden for the listeners to lower their opinion of the subject without verifying the report. Once again, this may seem like a difficult approach to take, but if Hashem requires it of us, we can be sure that it is within our power to accomplish.