When You should Share Your Secrets? and Why

When You Should Share Your Secrets? and Why
By Ahmad Amirali

Have you ever wondered, why sometimes you want an urge to share your griefs, sorrows and the deepest dark thoughts to another human being? Most of the times, whether students or teachers like me, we all share our secrets to a person whom we assume that our secret will not be revealed to anyone else. In that way, people have experienced the relief of getting something off their chest by sharing personal information. Relieving the stress of hiding painful, emotionally stressful information by sharing it with a trusted confidant can be intense, freeing, and liberating.  However, much depends on the subject matter of the secret you share, including your, often justifiable, unwillingness to share it.

The mode of sharing information differs from people to people. Some people prefer to keep private facts private. Others tweet, post, and blog about the details of their personal lives for the world to see. The first type of person are the ones who avoid deliberate chaos or often avoid socialising. The amount of which private facts might cause personal distress depends on the type of information at issue, as well as how someone feels about the details they are hiding.

In most cases, a person´s humiliation is another person´s badge of honour. People have radically different views about their circumstances. Some individuals go to great lengths to hide their status as a cancer survivor, while others proudly display bracelets and ribbons celebrating their survivor status, run in 5k road races to raise money for cancer research, and even post selfies from the hospital after chemotherapy or radiation treatments.

However, irrespective of the source of hidden pain, shame, or distress, research reveals the value of sharing. Whomever you decide to tell, however, when it comes to ‘sharing’, there is a significant difference between disclosing, and confiding. Michael Slepian and Edythe Moulton-Tetlock (2019) researched how confiding secrets to others impacts wellbeing.  After examining more than 800 participants carrying a combined total of more than 10,000 secrets, they found that seemingly, confiding a secret is likely to produce increased well-being through effective coping. Slepian and Moulton-Tetlock believe that people incline to think about their secrets even when inappropriate to their current context. This process is called ‘mind-wandering’. They highlighted in their previous research that repetitive mind wandering to a secret predicts lower well-being than concealment of the secret. However, confiding a secret resulted in less mind-wandering to the secret. Their research results reveal that confiding led to social support and thus predicted increased ability to cope and enhanced wellbeing

However, people hide their secrets due to personal failures to lapses in judgment and everything in between. Thus, they keep dangling in between whether or not they share stuff that puzzling their heads and what amount of information they should share to someone else? Well, the answer is simple; it depends on how they believe they are sharing it, and to whom.

Disclosing vs Confiding

Slepian and Moulton-Tetlock depicted a distinction between disclosing secrets and confiding secrets. Because secrets are usually kept for fear of rejection, the leak might create concern that the secret might be shared and the information might spread, causing social stigmatisation. Disclosure, consequently, is associated with increased mind wandering. Confiding a secret, in contrast, paired with a request for help, can increase a sense of social support and increased coping, and lead to less frequent mind wandering.

Slepian and Moulton-Tetlock explain that both experimental and correlational studies show that when people share a secret, they perceive social support, and are better able to cope with the secret. Also, due to the perception of more effective coping, confiding a secret is linked with thinking less about it. They also found that confiding a secret is predictive of increased well-being through a process of altering how and how often people think about whatever secret they are keeping.

So apparently, confiding secrets can potentially alleviate emotional distress, reduce repetitive mind-wandering, and boost coping ability. It appears to be true across the board with a wide range of different types of secrets. When it comes to sharing, however, the key is being able to identify the right people to confide in. Smart sharing of sensitive information can certainly increase our wellbeing, but it also involves choosing our confidants with confidence.


Wendy L. Patrick, Ph.D., is a career trial attorney, author of Red Flags, and co-author of Reading People. Source: Psychology Today

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