New Research: The Surprising Psychology Behind the Secrets Everyone Keeps & What Your Secrets Say About You

Episode 97: The Mel Robbins Podcast

with Michael Slepian

THE SURPRISING PSYCHOLOGY OF SECRETS

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In today’s episode, you and I are discussing the fascinating science of secrets: why you keep them and how keeping secrets directly impacts your relationships, your self-esteem, your health, and holds you back from living the life you deserve.

Dr. Michael Slepian is a bestselling author, psychologist, associate professor of leadership and ethics at Columbia Business School, and visiting scholar at Stanford. He has been researching secrets for over a decade and will help you understand what secrets are, why we keep them, and the harm of holding them inside.

Dr. Slepian's research is shocking: studies prove you are keeping 13 secrets right now. 5 of which you’ve never told a single person. Not your mom. Not your best friend. No one. Even more shocking is the impact they have on your life.

My mission today is to help you free yourself of the burden of secrets.

Listen, and you’ll understand how the secrets we have shape our physical and psychological well-being, who we are, how we connect with others, and how we cope with our challenges.

You will also learn:

  • The most common secret that 61% of you are keeping right now
  • Why you always feel shame, isolation, and uncertainty when you keep a secret
  • The fundamental difference between secrecy and privacy, and why privacy is better for your health and relationships
  • Why the shame of secrecy kills your self-esteem
  • How to use guilt to get rid of shame (yup)
  • How babies learn to keep secrets from their parents and caregivers
  • The one person you should REALLY tell your secret to

Keeping a secret is the easy part; the hard part is having to live with it.

Let’s change that today.

Xo, Mel

In this episode, you’ll learn:

  • 2:00: The jaw-dropping secret that inspired this conversation today.
  • 9:45: Curious about the kinds of secrets people keep? Here are the top 10.
  • 11:50: How exactly do we define a secret?
  • 14:45: Are there any good secrets?
  • 15:45: Don’t feel too bad; we’re not the only animals that keep secrets.
  • 18:00: Keeping the secret isn’t the hard part; the hardest part is this.
  • 21:00: Listen to the secrets my listeners revealed. Recognize yourself?
  • 24:45: Some secrets are no big deal but we make them big in our heads.
  • 28:00: So what’s the difference between privacy and a secret?
  • 31:00: Here’s how to frame a mistake, instead of feeling shame.
  • 33:30: Research finds keeping serious secrets as kids can impact us as adults.
  • 35:30: Here’s what parents should say when their kids admit a secret to them.
  • 38:00: What do you say when friends keep you out of the group?
  • 39:40: How do you tell your partner that you’re having an emotional affair?
  • 42:30: The family secrets parents should never reveal to their children.
  • 47:15: What about traumatic family secrets?
  • 50:00: Choose the person who is your “coping compass” wisely.
  • 54:30: Questions you can ask anyone to develop a closer relationship.
  • 59:50: Here’s my hardest memory and what I realize about it now.

Resources and go deeper:

  • For Closed Captions: Watch on YouTube and turn on “CC.” For instructions to turn on closed captions, click here.


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In The Mel Robbins Podcast, Mel takes you behind the scenes in real-time. Every episode is packed with tactical advice, hilarious screwups, compelling conversations, and the tools and inspiration you need to create a better life.