Can You Keep a Secret?

I'm guessing that for many of us the decision on whether or not to keep a secret very much depends on several considerations. What the secret is, who's involved and the implications around keeping it or not can all be key factors. After all, there's a big difference between catching someone secretly bingeing on a bar of chocolate or finding out that they're having an affair with our best friend's husband or wife.

Some professions have the safe-guarding of secrets at the heart of their business ethos; doctors, accountants, therapists are bound by a code of conduct which covers client confidentiality. But other professions too, often in the service sector, hear many secrets on a regular basis. Hairdressers, personal trainers, nutritionists learn about the fears, concerns and inner secrets of their clients and customers and know how important their discretion is in protecting their reputation and the future of their businesses.

Understandably people in business don't want to disclose if they're struggling or less busy than they'd like to be. They'll often say they're doing well because it's important to convey a positive impression, to show they're successful and thriving. No one wants to appear to be struggling or in any way desperate or worried. It's often better to keep the true situation a secret and hope it improves by offering the successful image you want to portray.

A business owner also has to believe in themselves and nurture their positive mindset. Keeping misgivings a secret between themselves and their business adviser or possibly close family and friends means it's easier to visualise success and maintain a good perspective, ready to turn that vision into reality.

In business secrets can be divisive. If the future of a company is in the balance with some aware of the situation and others out of the loop it can cause serious disquiet and unrest, prompting a climate of suspicion and uncertainty amongst staff. Those in the know will have an unfair advantage when it comes to decision-making, moving on and deciding on their future options.

Favouritism and secret cliques can lead to any information gained being used by that person or group to improve their advantage or prospect of progression over others. Equally, insider trading is illegal as it uses secrets and the disclosure of confidential information so that the informed can benefit from leaked details of transactions, deals, company takeovers or buy outs.

Some people love knowing a secret that no one else knows. Having that advantage makes them feel powerful, important, singled out, honoured. Then there are others, those who can't bear to hold onto secret information and are desperate to share. It seeps out of them, inviting comments and questions in a bid to elicit further information. They almost beg you to 'force' it out of them.

Non-verbal cues are often a giveaway too, with body language, subtle shifts in stance being prompts that tell you that someone is holding onto a secret. Our gut will often tell us that something's not right when we're in their company. We may feel confused, question if they're lying, holding something back, being duplicitous. Something's amiss even if we don't know quite what.

What about those tantalising posts that people sometimes put on social media, the provocative, open-ended comments like, 'honestly', 'I've had enough', 'who'd have believed it!' which are often posted specifically to provoke interest, yet which often then result in an irritatingly evasive, 'I can't say, it's a secret' reply. Many people have now become wise to this manipulation and refuse to get drawn into an exchange, not wanting to play the game. Put simply, it's annoying!

Some subjects are more taboo than others, with people often choosing to keep aspects of their lives private or secret. Money is often deemed to be off-limits; how much we earn, our financial situation, health conditions, any relationship issues or family concerns may be deemed to be off-limits for general discussion

Is gender a factor when you're wanting to keep a secret? 84% of women think that they're good at keeping secrets. But women often like to share their confidences with other people, dissecting and mulling over what they've discovered. Men, on the other hand, like to know something that no one else knows. They feel powerful, informed and maybe even part of an elite clique.

Certainly, keeping secrets is a complex situation with the only real guarantee for keeping your secret safe being to tell no one. Once revealed your secret is no longer secret!


Susan Leigh, Altrincham, Cheshire, South Manchester counsellor, hypnotherapist, relationship counsellor, writer & media contributor offers help with relationship issues, stress management, assertiveness and confidence. She works with individual clients, couples and provides corporate workshops and support.

She's author of 3 books, 'Dealing with Stress, Managing its Impact', '101 Days of Inspiration #tipoftheday' and 'Dealing with Death, Coping with the Pain', all on Amazon & with easy to read sections, tips and ideas to help you feel more positive about your life.

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