Many people don’t appreciate how much of a blessing it is to have someone to talk to – who understands, empathises, or at least listens. We talk to friends when we are bored, excited, drunk, sober, concerned, unconcerned, afraid, confident, sad, happy, and so on. And, it is so mundane that we seldom realise how much of our sanity depends on it.
We are called social creatures for a reason: Talking to others is how we organise our thoughts and moderate our emotions. When you are stuck in your head, it is easy to lose touch with reality – this could be by being overly fearful, confident, heartbroken, pleased, and so on. Talking to others during social interactions – hearing their replies, or at least seeing their facial expressions – is how we know our thoughts are in line. Hence, without someone to talk to you cannot accurately/optimally approach reality.
However, we simply can’t talk with every person we meet, especially on sensitive issues – like our finances, family, relationships, weaknesses, past, political views, goals, and so on. In short, we need to watch what we say and who we say them to, despite it being exceedingly easy, liberating, and important to express ourselves.
That is why in this piece, we would explore why, when, and how to share secrets and other sensitive information.
How Much Should You Keep Private?
We’re advised to keep our PIN – be it for our phones or ATM cards – private. Yet, many parents freely tell their kids these things. Back in school, I had the password to my friend’s/roommate‘s phone, and he also had the PIN of my Card.
Now, I am not advising you to do that. I strongly discourage you to do that. I only highlighted that to explain that no matter how secrete or sensitive information is, we, as humans, are more inclined to share than to keep it private. This is why social media is so active – people simply love sharing…and, many times they overshare (by sharing with the wrong people).
When it comes to how much you should keep private, the key is in accurately determining who is worthy of the information. This is because, if you keep your relationship issues private, how do you find the solution? If you keep your financial struggles private, how do you fix them? Perhaps you have a good idea, but without sharing it with competent people, how do you make it fly?
People literally pay therapists to divulge their most troubling thoughts – so they can get feedback, or at least get it off their chest. People who have been victims of violence (domestic, sexual, or otherwise), who are hunted by phobias, guilt and shame, or who are painfully confused, dejected, or anxious often need someone who can listen and offer advice with their best interest at heart.
Of course, someone with ill intent can literally destroy you with such information. But, if you do not share, that very information can destroy you too.
The more I think about it, the more I realize that there is no limit to how much you should share, as long as it is with the right person, in the right way, and for the right reasons. Though this means, there would always be the fear and danger of being betrayed. But, the alternative of having no one to rely on is significantly worse (and I’ll explain shortly).
Why You Should Not Keep Things To Yourself
In many ways, keeping things to yourself can be unhealthy, unhelpful, and even harmful to you. Not sharing your pressing issues (whether private or not) can lead to
- Worries and negative self-talk: It is easy to start thinking and imagining the worse of ourselves and our situations when we allow our problematic thoughts to marinate in our minds. It is also easy to get stuck in a counter-productive perspective when we don’t vent.
- Increased Stress and Anxiety: bottling up your thoughts and feelings is not a healthy way to process your emotions (especially when you’ve fallen into the trap of worrying and negative self-talk). Worse, as the matter weighs down on your mind, the effects can be increased stress and anxiety.
- Mental Health Issues: Prolonged stress and anxiety can lead to mental health issues such as rage, frustration, sadness, and even depression. All these harm the mind in a myriad of ways, further alienating you from the truth of yourself or the situation; and making it more difficult to see the way out.
- Physical Health Issues: Stress, anxiety, and depression can also lead to headaches, stomachaches, insomnia and other physical health issues. You must have heard people talk about getting thin from worrying. Our minds are tethered to our bodies, and an unhealthy mind sooner or later manifests as an unhealthy body.
- Relationship Issues: When you stonewall everyone and don’t allow them to know what is bothering you, they may begin to question their position in your life, and may even begin to misunderstand you; and soon start withdrawing from you.
- Loneliness and isolation: When people start withdrawing, it eventually leads to isolation and loneliness, which makes it even harder to cope (healthily) with the challenge you were facing in the first place.
- Staying stuck: When you don’t talk about your problems no one will be able to know about them or help you out. And, you may also not be able to find help, or the courage and willingness to pursue it – just like the unwillingness to eat and take meds sick people experience.
- Self-destructive behaviours: Worse, as a means of coping with your problems, coupled with mental and physical health issues, you may start indulging in self-destructive behaviours. Some people might go off the deep end and start drinking or getting high every day. Some might get so stressed and feel so lost and cursed that they literally take their own lives, while others will simply find God and walk away from it all (essentially, metaphorically murdering themselves – dreams, relationships, and all).
It’s a slippery slope that often doesn’t lead to a good place. Sure, there are times when keeping to yourself is okay and even advisable. For example, if you are gay in a country where being gay is punishable by death, you may want to hold on to that information with your dear life (as your life is literally at stake).
However, apart from things that are labelled crime or outlawed and information that can literally be directly or indirectly used to harm you (like your bank details, home address, and Intellectual property), most other private information are only as valuable as your personality, beliefs, and values as a person.
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What If You Didn’t Have To Worry About Betrayal?
In 2021, someone tried to blackmail Tiwa Savage, threatening to release her sex tape if she didn’t comply with their terms. Well, she told the person to release it if they please, which they did. But, guess what?, after a couple of weeks, the matter died down (it turns out every adult already knows what sex is, and may even be actively indulging in it, in less pleasurable ways). And, in 2023, Tiwa Savage performed at King Charles III’s coronation.
Did exposing the privacy of her sexual affairs dent her image or career? Hell No! Could it be devastating for someone else, Hell Yes! For example, think about what happens to the Pastors that were later found out to be fucking their underaged female church members (or sleeping with married women in their congregation).
In the end, if something is true, I do not see the need to hide it, unless you’ve done something wrong in which case, privacy is understandable. I see many people who stay off grid and use anonymous accounts to interact online because of the shady businesses they are into. There are also ladies who would not share pictures of the people they are dating (because they are prolly dating 5 others, or want others to see them as still available).
In the end, evil and lies always try to hide. This, I repeat, does not mean there is no information that should be kept private (at least, to 99,9999% of people you know).
Everyone talks about privacy, but what they are actually afraid of is their safety. For example, Google knows all your browsing history, holds all your passwords, and knows if you’re lying, cheating, or doing something wrong. Yet, millions (if not billions) of people ask Google to suggest passwords for them. People simply feel safe with Google even though Google is literally profiting off the information they freely and eagerly share. Keep in mind that Google is just one of the Big Data companies that sell or use your information to “better your experiences” – which actually means, personalise ads and better manipulate you into doing their biddings.
I don’t have an issue with Google though. I, to a great extent, trust them, and that is why I am using the Google Docs App on the Chrome browser to write this content. Which is interesting because why should I? Well, it is because they have over time, proven to, at least, not be malevolent towards me (or their other several billion users).
So, let me ask you. If you could find someone who over time has proven to have your best interest at heart, and unlike Google does not profit off you, but rather supports and protects you, wouldn’t you trust that person? Should you keep all the information you entrust to Google from them? Wouldn’t they, even more than Google, be willing to go out of their way to help? Such a person is called a friend.
And, as we’ve mentioned in this blog before, it takes time to build trust with friends, and even longer to build intimacy (which requires a deeper and more vulnerable level of trust).
I mentioned having a friend who knows my PIN. But, I never said all my friends have my PIN. Not all my friends know everyone I’ve ever kissed. Not all of them know exactly how much I’m earning. And, not all of them are aware of what I am working on. But, then, there is a friend who does. And, there could also be different friends to whom you can entrust different sorts of information.
How To Share Secrets and Sensitive Information With Friends:
Before we start talking about how to share secrets and sensitive information, it is important to know that this advice does not apply to everyone. If you are into unethical dealings or are petrified to stand up and admit your beliefs, views, and actions (for one reason or the other) then don’t heed this advice.
It is okay to share secrets with friends because it can help you feel better, get advice, build trust, and feel closer to them. But, you have to be cautious as it can easily backfire. Before you share a secret or sensitive information with a friend
Make Sure It Is Not Someone Else’s Secret or Personal Information:
If someone had confided in you, it is never okay to share that information with someone else (no matter how intimate you are with them). If your spouse shared their fears and weaknesses with you, on no account should you tell that to your other friends. That is literally the definition of betrayal.
Make Sure You Don’t Share Your Personal Information With Someone Who Has Shared Another Person’s Personal Information With You:
This follows from the first point and is common sense. If someone betrayed another person’s trust by sharing their private/sensitive information with you, why should you trust them? It’s like giving a banana to a monkey and trusting it won’t eat it. Spoiler, it will.
Only Share What Is True:
This should prolly be the first point. Hardly anything good comes from lies. Perhaps you lied to a friend that someone swindled you out of some money. Perhaps you asked them not to do anything about it, or tell anyone. But, your friend, out of their “desire to help” goes out and confronts the person, or even arrests that person. How would you fare in the event of a conflict? If you had told the truth, perhaps you would only have had to deal with the friend who took action and let go of the person who had initially wronged you. But if it was a lie, then you (and your friend) might be the ones begging to be left off the hook.
Only Share Sensitive and Private Information With Someone You Trust:
Do not share any important, sensitive, or private information with people you do not trust. And, do not trust people who you just met. If you have a health condition, criminal record, or some other sensitive information, it does not make any sense to share it with someone you just met a week ago (even if you now call them a “friend”). Give things time. The more critical the information, the longer you need to know the person before you share. If someone has exhibited questionable behaviours in the past, it is best to keep your mouth shut around them. If someone also seems to have a different way of thinking, it is important to also watch what you say to them as they may not take it as you would.
Only Share Your Problems and Worries With People Who You Think Can Be Of Help:
If you have a health concern that is keeping you up all night, it will be more sensible to share that information with a friend who is a health professional. Sharing that information with a friend who is an Engineer will simply cause them unnecessary worry and anxiety. Yes, you should share your (secret) problems, but ensure it is with the right people. Perhaps, you can simply ask a friend if they know someone who can be of help, rather than burdening them with questions about how to go about something they have totally no clue about.
Only Share Such Information In Private:
Don’t share secret or sensitive information in public or in front of other people (not even when whispering). Make sure you choose a private setting (or medium) where you can talk freely without worrying about being misheard, or overheard. It’s also important because your friend may not respond the way you expected and you might need to take some time to get them to understand what you are saying and what you expect from them. For instance, not all friends will immediately buy your idea of not calling out a boss who (tried to) sexually harass you.
Pay Attention To Your Emotions and Feelings:
Don’t share secrets or sensitive information when you are feeling emotional, excited, or upset. Wait until you’ve calmed down and have thought things through. Perhaps you are upset and intend to share such information to hurt the other person. But, that is a move you might regret.
Let Them Know What You Expect From Them
Are you looking for advice, support, or just someone to listen? Not being clear on what you want from your friend can keep them in limbo. It may cause them to act in ways you didn’t expect. For example, if you reported a case of being cheated on to a friend, they could assume you’re telling them because you want advice or want them to help you confront your partner. Their action may not be what you want, but they have only acted because you didn’t make it clear what you wanted.
Ask If They Are Willing To Hear It
Secrets, questions, and worries are a burden, so have the decency of asking your friend if they are willing to bear it with you before offloading it on them. A friend may be particularly uninterested or uncomfortable discussing certain topics. Respect their decision and find someone else to confide in.
Always keep in mind that there will always be risks in sharing secrets or sensitive information with people (Google accounts get hacked and people get drunk). Once you share any information, you have no control over how it will be understood, kept, or used. Sometimes, some information can entirely change how someone sees you. So, perhaps, you need to think twice about what you are willing to share, who you are sharing it with, and why you are sharing it.
Conclusion: “Sharing Secrets Can Build Trust and Strengthen Your Relationship”
Even the worst people often share mutually destructive secrets with each other. Sometimes very bad people need to reassure each other that they won’t divulge each other’s secrets because they know how much damage such information can cause.
So also, sharing the right secret, with the right friend, in the right way can help build stronger bonds and strengthen your relationship. Needless to say, you should also see that the person you are confiding in is willing to confide in you.
A Self-Help Writer And Editor Who Keeps It Simple (Yet Elegant)