How to Keep a Secret

Five Methods:Keeping Someone Else’s SecretKeeping Your Own SecretAvoiding the TopicSatisfying Your Urge to TellKnowing When to Tell

Being entrusted with a secret can be both a delight and a burden. You should be honored that someone trusts you enough to tell you a secret, but be aware that if you betray that trust, you could damage your relationship with the person who told you. You may also be keeping your own secret, which can be just as difficult as keeping someone else’s secret. Cultivating the willpower to remain quiet will ensure that the secret is kept and will maintain your reputation as a trustworthy person.

Method 1
Keeping Someone Else’s Secret

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    Know the seriousness of the secret before you hear it. If someone tells you ahead of time that they are going to tell you a secret, ask for more information first.
    • Find out if it is a “little” secret or a “big” secret. This will tell you how important it is that you keep the secret. It will also tell you if you need to give the person your undivided attention while they disclose their secret (looking at your phone while having a serious talk is poor etiquette).
    • Prepare yourself to listen to the secret, knowing if it is something that you can handle.
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    Ask how long you must keep the secret. It might be easier to keep a secret if you know you only have to keep it for a certain length of time. If you are expected to keep the secret forever, that is good to know up front as well.
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    Find out if you are allowed to tell anyone else. When you are told the secret, ask if it is okay to tell anyone else, like your sibling or a partner/spouse.
    • Asking if it is okay to tell can help you avoid an uncomfortable situation in which the person is upset with you.
    • If you know you will tell someone, like a spouse, be up front with that information and warn the person that you are going to tell someone else. You may want to warn them about this before they tell you the secret.
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    Stop the person from telling you. If you know that you are really bad about keeping secrets, tell the person not to tell you the secret.
    • The person will appreciate your honesty and still has the option of telling you, knowing that you may tell someone else.
    • Suggest that the person tell you the secret right before they tell other people, so you do not have to keep the secret very long.
    • Some studies have shown that keeping a secret puts undue stress on a person. If you wish to avoid added stress, just say no to secrets.[1]

Method 2
Keeping Your Own Secret

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    Decide how long you want to keep the secret. Depending on the type of secret, it may have a built-in end point.
    • Something like a pregnancy or a surprise gift will have a natural end date.
    • Other secrets might not have a natural ending point, and you will just have to decide when you will be ready to tell people.
    • Try waiting a few days if you feel very emotional about the secret. You may regret telling someone immediately, and giving yourself a few days to calm down may help you make more rational decisions about when to tell people and who to tell.
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    Make a plan for telling someone. If you know that you will be able to tell someone in the future, making a detailed plan about how and when to tell may help you keep the secret in the meantime.
    • If it is a “fun” secret that you’re going to surprise someone with, planning a fun way to tell will help occupy the time before you tell her.
    • If it is a serious secret, make a plan to give yourself and the person you’re going to tell uninterrupted time alone to talk and discuss the secret.
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    Push the secret out of your mind. Stay busy with other things, and try not to think about the secret too much. If you think about it constantly, it will be much more difficult to keep yourself from telling someone.
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    Think about the benefits of telling your secret. If you are keeping a secret that is upsetting you, you may be standing in your own way. Telling someone may give them the opportunity to help you in a way that you may not expect.[2]
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    Entrust your secret to one person. If you absolutely must tell someone, be sure you choose the right person.
    • Think about your past experiences with that person. Have they been trustworthy and discreet in the past?
    • Be explicit about your expectations when you tell the person your secret: are they allowed to tell anyone? Who and when can they tell?
    • Know that telling anyone opens up the possibility that the secret will get out.

Method 3
Avoiding the Topic

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    Do not bring up the topic to anyone. If you bring up the topic of the secret in a conversation with someone, you will likely be tempted to tell the secret. You may (consciously or subconsciously) bring up a related topic hoping that you will have the opportunity to tell the secret. Being aware of this can help keep you from doing it subconsciously.
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    Change the conversation topic if necessary. If you are talking to someone who mentions something related to the secret, you may need to change the topic of conversation.
    • Continuing to talk about something that reminds you of the secret will put it in the front of your mind and may tempt you to tell.
    • Try to change the subject casually so that the person does not notice that you are avoiding telling her something.
    • If necessary, find a reason to leave. Sometimes removing yourself from the conversation is the only way to keep quiet.
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    Pretend you do not know anything. If someone suspects that you know a secret, try to be vague if she asks you about it directly.
    • You may be able to pretend you don’t know by asking questions about the secret.
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    Lie if you have to. You may need to lie about knowing the secret. If you do lie, be sure you remember what you told the person so you don’t get “caught” in the lie. It’s better to just lie and say you don’t know (even though you do) than to make up an elaborate detailed lie.
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    Be honest. If someone keeps pressing you for information, tell them “I cannot talk to you about this at this time.” Even though you’re admitting that you know something, you are not telling the secret.
    • If the person is persistent, politely tell them to stop asking you.

Method 4
Satisfying Your Urge to Tell

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    Write it down and destroy it. Writing about the secret in detail on paper, then destroying the evidence, can be a good way to “get it out.”[3]
    • Be sure you thoroughly destroy the evidence. Consider burning it (safely) or shredding it in a paper shredder.
    • If you put it in a trash can, tear it into pieces and bury it underneath the trash. Consider putting the pieces in separate trash cans and/or taking the trash out to the curb or dumpster immediately after throwing the paper away.
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    Find an anonymous place online to tell. There are some forums for posting secrets so you can get it out but remain completely anonymous.
    • Be sure you are truly in an anonymous environment.
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    Tell an inanimate object. Telling the secret to a stuffed animal, a pet, or a collectible item may help you feel like you have told someone. If you feel like you’re going to burst because you haven’t told anyone, this may help get the immediacy of your urge to tell out.
    • Be sure that there is no one nearby to overhear what you are saying.
    • Be sure your phone and computer are not connected to calls or audio chat before you speak aloud to an object.
    • You may also consider telling a baby who cannot speak yet. You might feel like you are telling a person, but the danger of the secret getting out would be very low.
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    Tell yourself in the mirror. If you need to feel like you are telling another human, try telling yourself the secret in the mirror. Pretend you have a twin brother or sister and talk to yourself. This may seem silly, but it might help.
    • Again, be sure that there is no one nearby to overhear what you are saying.
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    Get the secret energy out of your body. Sometimes, hearing a secret makes you feel like you’re going to explode. There is a physical connection between your body and keeping secrets.[4] Get the jitters out by yelling or dancing around—anything that will get that excited energy out of you so that you don’t run and tell someone the secret instead.
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    Tell one person who is very trustworthy. If you absolutely must tell another human, be sure that it is someone who can keep a secret.
    • If you are keeping a secret about another person, try telling a third party who doesn’t know the original person.
    • If you do tell someone, be sure they understand that the matter is a secret and they should not tell anyone.
    • Know that telling anyone opens up the possibility that the secret will get out, and that people may find out it was you who told.

Method 5
Knowing When to Tell

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    Evaluate whether the secret is dangerous. If the secret involves one or more people being hurt, you may need to tell someone who can help, particularly if there are children involved.
    • If someone is harming or has harmed herself or another person, you may need to report it.
    • If someone is involved in criminal activity and tells you about it, you might be held legally responsible for not reporting the action.
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    Know if there is an end point or deadline. If you asked about telling the secret when you found out, double-check to see if it is still an appropriate time before you start telling people. Some events, like surprise parties, will have an obvious “secret” deadline.
    • Ask if your “reward” for keeping the secret can be getting to tell someone yourself when the time is right.Whatever you do, do NOT text the secret to anyone because then they have proof that YOU told them. Tell the person in person.
    • Depending on the secret, you may not want to tell other people that you knew before they did. This may hurt the feelings of the person’s close friends or family.
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    Weigh the risks and benefits of telling. Any time you decide to tell a secret to someone else, you must evaluate the risk of many people finding out and you being thought of as untrustworthy against the satisfaction you will feel when you tell someone the secret.
    • If you are considering telling a secret, write down a list of pros and cons to telling.[5] This can help you make a well-reasoned decision.

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Categories: Diary and Secrets | Spying