07 Feb Privacy Vs Secrecy – How to draw a healthy line
In a recent program, I was asked an interesting question on the distinction between privacy and secrecy in relationships and how to draw the line. How open should we be?
Firstly, in order for us to build rapport, we need to know each other. Although it’s not the only thing, it is one of the things. Rapport is a climate of trust and understanding. If we are being too secretive, then there isn’t an element of trust but an element of doubt or a fear of being hurt. When that takes over, then trust is obviously out of the window.
Secondly, if there’s a story that’s not worth talking about, then it’s perhaps not worth remembering either. If it is worth remembering, then perhaps it’s worth giving those people the context who are impacted by our behavior as a result of this incident. Without context, we might just appear as a bunch of uptight individuals for no apparent reason. It is one thing to expect others to understand us without us saying a thing. But the question to ask ourselves is what are we doing on our part to help people understand us better. After all, it isn’t all others’ responsibility to understand us. It is our responsibility to help people understand us too.
Everyone doesn’t need to know everything. But if it’s impacting them, then it is important that we provide them a context as context gives more meaning. Too much secrecy in close relationships come across as hiding – and hiding does not beget trust. Trust is of paramount importance in relationships. Privacy is where you keep to yourself, not because of shame, fear, or guilt. But just for some healthy boundaries which don’t concern or discomfort the other. It is something that the other person wouldn’t feel hurt, cheated, or betrayed if they get to know of it later, or from someone else.
The key is to not demand to be told, and not dominate to keep a secret. Don’t be too demanding, needy, or nosy in knowing the details of other person’s stories. Be gracious and listen to what the other person wants to say rather than insisting on listening to something that they haven’t shared. And on your part, don’t wait to a point of discomfort where the other person has to ask you for context. Be understanding in providing the context wherever necessary so that they can support you better. Ultimately people don’t hurt us because of knowing our past. People hurt us because we are open to being hurt or shamed by our past.
All said and done, we can’t expect people to treat us with special care just because of a past story that’s already over. If each of us carries hurt from past wounds, hospitals will run out of beds and people will run out of patience. And there’s no life that has no troubles. They help us learn to be better individuals. We can’t expect others to be better while we behave at our worst because of a story from the past. A hero, and a villain, both have a past – but it is the choices they make in the present that makes the differentiating factor between them. When you romanticize your past troubles, you miss out on enjoying your present pleasures.