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  • Susan Fletcher, Ph.D.

What To Do When You Have a Secret

Have you ever been afraid you might get in trouble at work for reporting something bad that you are told to keep secret? A horrible secret was revealed last week with Joe Paterno and Penn State. Secrets also come out during presidential campaigns and in some companies when someone leaves the company. As a psychologist I hear secrets and private information all the time. Many times when I'm told a secret, it's the first time that person has revealed it to anyone.

There are many secrets that can be serious and harmful. No one should take this subject lightly. Harmful secrets like those about abuse, addiction, neglect and dishonesty define people and their outlook on the world.

Use these Smart Moves when you have a secret and you will Stay in the Smart Zone:

  • Secrets can bring happiness. Think of a surprise party your friends are planning or a gift someone is about to receive. My friend Julie gave her 14 year old daughter a surprise party this past weekend but someone spoiled it and her daughter found out (Darn!). Maybe a friend is expecting a baby and waiting for the right moment to tell the news. Most people will agree, these are secrets you should keep.

  • Secrets give you perceived power over someone else. "I know something you don't know - nana nana boo boo." This may sound like elementary school but you and I know that grown-ups do this, too. Think about it. Even at work knowing secrets can give you an edge over your coworkers or competitors. This type of power can be dangerous and even illegal. Proceed with caution.

  • Secrets give you Brownie points. Telling secrets can elevate your status with friends and coworkers. Think about how you feel when someone reveals a secret to you. Letting others in on your secret gives them a stronger connection with you and vise versa. It can sometimes build trust but it can also build suspicion. Me, I tend to err on the side of caution. Brownie points sometimes are really not worth it.

  • Secrets can cause anxiety. Keeping a secret often prevents people from dealing with the problem at hand and creates more stress. Revealing secrets is very helpful when it is done in a safe, non-judgmental environment. It helps people let go of an issue and think about it more clearly.

  • Confidence in your confidant. We tell secrets because we trust others not to reveal them. Remember Deep Throat in the Watergate scandal? In reality, people are pretty likely to tell your secret - even if it's just to their spouse or best friend. It's human nature. Have confidence in the person you confide in.

  • Know the Smart Zone Secret. If you have attended my presentations you know I always end with the Smart ZoneSecret which is to take the focus off yourself. Now that is a secret worth telling!

Secrets can be harmful and can abuse power. Secrets can sometimes make a person feel special. Err on the side of caution and learn from others' mistakes. I like the kind of secrets that make a person feel special because many times that gesture is returned. Now that is a great way to Live Smart by Living in the Smart Zone.

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