261. The Secret Life of Secrets with Michael Slepian

Secrets are a double-edged sword. They can both inflict and remedy physical and psychological injury for us and our loved ones. But regardless of whether they offer benefit, keeping secrets is often burdensome for the keeper. Michael Slepian, author of The Secret Life of Secrets, has dedicated his career to the psychology of secrets and how keeping secrets affect variables that govern social and organizational life. In this episode of POTC, Michael and Yael discuss the personal and relational value in sharing as well as the impact of keeping secrets. Join us in this episode for surprising statistics and findings on secret-keeping, practical advice on assessing when and how to share your secrets, evidence-based strategies on building trust, and much much more, today!

Listen and Learn:

  • Yael and Debbie discuss the power of tightly held secrets
  • Why secret-keeping is often overlooked in the realm of mental health
  • Michael’s expert definition of secrecy
  • Important distinctions between deception and private information
  • The impact of secret-keeping on our well-being
  • Some surprising findings from Michael’s research on secret-keeping
  • The first steps in overcoming a tightly held or particularly burdensome secret
  • The hazards and gifts associated with professional secret-keeping as a clinician
  • Revealing statistics on secrets and secret-keeping
  • An expert definition of ambitious secrets
  • Practical advice on assessing when and how to share your secrets
  • Guidelines for helping children understand the differences between the right to privacy and the dangers of keeping certain kinds of secrets
  • Pros and cons of snooping
  • Evidence-based strategies on building trust
  • Michael’s coping compass and how it can help you decide whether or not to disclose a secret
  • Michael’s personal experiences sharing and learning secrets
  • The personal and relational value in sharing secrets


About Michael Slepian:

Michael Slepian is the Sanford C. Bernstein & Co. Associate Professor of Leadership and Ethics at Columbia Business School. He previously was a visiting scholar at Stanford University, and received his Ph.D. from Tufts University. He is an elected fellow of the Society of Experimental Social Psychology, has received the Rising Star Award from the Association for Psychological Science, and received the National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship.Michael studies the psychology of secrets and how keeping secrets affect variables that govern social and organizational life. For more information see his research and publications.

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Episode 261