Secret-keeping, or the inability thereof, is common fodder for sitcom scenarios. One character has something they’re dying to tell, but their best friend/sister/crotchety grandmother is notorious for being unable to keep it to themselves. As the scene unfolds, character #1 invariably tells the juicy tidbit to character #2 and hijinks ensue.
On an episode of Modern Family, Mitchell found out that his friend Brett had gotten calf implants but didn’t want anyone to know so he could make them believe he’d been working out. “Don’t tell anyone, especially Cam!” Brett admonished Mitchell. Cam is Mitchell’s partner, notorious for blabbing any secret. ("OK, well I didn't know that was my reputation. Maybe that's a secret people have been keeping from me.")
After much prodding by Cam, Mitchell gives in and spills the beans about Brett’s legs. Cam immediately mass-texts all of their friends…giggle giggle, hijinks, apologies, end scene.
Similarly, every season of every incarnation of the Real Housewives franchise has seen at least one betrayal *dun dun DUN!* because someone violated a confidence. Watching the most recent reunion show, one woman tried to deflect blame off herself by inferring she didn’t have a choice in the matter. “YOU put me in a bad position by making me aware of this information” she told her cast-mate. In essence, she thought she couldn’t be blamed for perpetuating gossip simply because she was given the knowledge of it. Personal accountability be damned. Self control? Never heard of it.
Now, I understand that sometimes you hear things that make you go not only "Hmmm…" but flat out "Whoa!" It’s thrilling to hear something we perceive to be breaking news. We can feel a sense of power telling others what we know about someone else.
Somewhere around my college years I realized that keeping secrets actually displays MORE power. I guess I’d been betrayed enough that I decided I didn’t want to be like the people who’d hurt me before. Through very concerted effort I kept a couple secrets that came my way. Shortly after seeing an episode of Seinfeld I half-jokingly told my roommate, “You can tell me. I’ll put it in the vault,” a reference to character Elaine’s euphemism for keeping a secret. Since I said I would, I kept my word. With time, I noticed people told me more secrets. It’s not something anyone really mentioned; no one ever told me that they noticed I don’t blab so therefore I was their go-to confession booth. But that’s what happened.
Retelling secrets gives a short-time high, but keeping secrets earns long-time trust.
Last evening an entertainment show did a story on everyday people who sell out celebrity secrets for a payout from paparazzi. A waitress might get 100 bucks to tip off a photographer about a starlet barfing in a nightclub. “They’re not my friend. I don’t owe them privacy,” said one club worker who wished to remain anonymous (I bet!). The same show interviewed a limousine driver who had seen his share of ill behavior by celebrities. “I could have sold her out,” he said about one young actress who passed out in the back seat of his vehicle after a night of partying. “But I didn’t. I drove her home. I carried her into her house and made sure she was safe.” And he never told who that was. And he has steady work as a nicely-paid private driver. He won't sell out a client just to make rent.
Again I say, telling secrets gives a short-time high (or payout), but keeping secrets earns long-time trust.
|A confession from Postsecret.com|
But don’t mistake that personal connection as permission to do with the information as you wish. Instead, use it to strengthen a bond of human trust. Put it in the vault. At some point the secret may become irrelevant, but the fact that you kept it will not.