In the laws of loshon hora, the Chofetz Chaim discussed the concept of “api tlasa” (before three), where a negative statement was made in the presence of three people, which is considered a public forum. Rambam states that such information may be repeated because it is certain to become publicized, and therefore repeating it will not be causing any harm. However, as the Chofetz Chaim explained at great length (Day 29-31), because there are many limitations of this license, it should not be relied upon in practice.
Here, too, the Chofetz Chaim cautions us not to rely upon the license of api tlasa with regard to rechilus. If Shimon publicly speaks badly of Reuven, it would be forbidden for Levi to make Reuven aware of this (or to relate this to anyone else as well).
The Chofetz Chaim then discusses a halachah which has wide application in our daily lives. He offers a case of a business partner who is seeking to break up a partnership and find himself a new partner, but is unsuccessful in finding someone who meets his requirements. It is forbidden to tell that partner, “You know, your partner was thinking of replacing you.” Obviously, the second partner will feel very hurt that his partner wanted to break up the partnership. Furthermore, once a seed of distrust is planted in one’s heart, it is difficult to uproot it. The second partner will worry about the stability of the partnership and will start viewing his partner’s actions by the light of, “Is he happy with me or is he about to walk out the door?” This insecurity can lead to anger, and ultimately may very well destroy the partnership.
We can easily apply this to other cases. Two friends always coordinate their work schedules so that they can vacation together. One of the friends contemplates taking a new traveling partner on his next vacation, but then changes his mind. Someone tells the other friend about his traveling partner’s original plans. Obviously he will feel hurt and rejected.
The Chofetz Chaim concludes by quoting Rambam ( Hilchos Dei’os 7:5): “One who tells his friend words which cause…harm to someone physically, or financially, or which cause him distress or fright — this is loshon hora.”