The Hard Facts: Can You Keep A Secret?

It’s Research Wednesday! Where I share the latest, or most fascinating, in the science of friendship.

“Researchers found that women are overcome by the desire to gossip and can typically wait  no longer than 32 minutes before spilling the beans. Depending on who the gossip is about, their husband, mother or best friend are most likely to be the initial recipients of the information. The study of 3,000 women by facial skincare brand Simple found one in ten admits being unable to keep a secret – no matter how  personal or confidential the news is. And  85 per cent said they relish hearing gossip  from others.” (“Can You Keep a Secret, Dear? Of Course (For 32 Minutes At Least)”” ;,  11/14/2011)

This is not about to be a lecture in how women are gossips and untrustworthy, don’t worry. After all, I love gossip. I’m the kind of person who, ten minutes into a coversation with an old friend, will say “What’s the latest? What’s new with everyone? Give me the gossip.”

The truth is that right now there’s much less gossip in my life, simply because my friends aren’t all in one group. Gossip really thrives in cliques or networks, right? Camp gossip, school gossip, neighborhood gossip. I’m guessing when the mommy phase comes along, there will be gossip there too. But right now, I get pretty little. Sometimes I’ll ask Callie to dish the latest and she usually says: “I don’t really know! I don’t see anyone that much.” Bummer.

To see our secret keeping abilities quantified…well, it is a bit horrifying. Though personally, if I tell someone a secret and say “don’t tell anyone,” I usually expect that they will tell their spouse. I always felt like that was accepted. If I specifically don’t want the hubby to know, I articulate it.

Also, I do sometimes share secrets with my Mom, but I feel like that doesn’t count. Who’s she going to tell? (Sorry, Mom.)

Maybe the answer is to take in your secret and immediately run to the TV. One two-hour episode of Biggest Loser and you’ve basically beaten the average by four times.

I think a lot of us have learned by now which of our friends are good secret keepers and which have big mouths. I like to think I’m a decent secret keeper, though I’ll admit my skills probably vary by the level of secret. If it’s something serious and I am told absolutely not to tell anyone, I won’t. I’ll also keep it to myself if I think revealing it will hurt anyone. If it’s something more exciting, like a friend is about to propose, I’ll probably tell Matt. Or Mom. Or both.

I know, who am I to judge which secrets are worth keeping? No one, that’s who. I’m just being honest.

Overall, I like to think of myself as a trustworthy person. I would never ruin a surprise or truly betray a friend, I hope. And certainly not in 32 minutes!

Does that half-hour estimate surprise you? Do you consider yourself a good secret keeper? Be honest! We’ll keep it between us.

You know what’s not a secret? MWF Seeking BFF, the book, is out in three weeks. December 20 to be exact. Yesterday the Cincinnati library called it a “future bestseller.” You can help make that a reality! Maybe you want to:
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Thank you!


Filed under The Search

5 responses to “The Hard Facts: Can You Keep A Secret?

  1. I used to subscribe to the “spouse” perspective too, until I saw how that can hurt the feelings of the person who shared the secret (in my case, his sister). Now I keep my mouth shut. If someone asks me not to tell, I don’t.

  2. I’ll say that as a single girl whose friends are mostly married, I make the assumption that anything I say that’s interesting enough is being passed along to the significant other. And my solution to that is to simply not share anything that I really don’t want anyone else to know. Which can get a little lonely, but I hate prefacing everything I say with: “And please don’t tell ___ about this…”

    I think that in certain respects, you have to know that someone is telling someone else your secret. I mean, I’m rather circumspect with the stuff I’ve had friends tell me, but sometimes I’ll discuss it with a completely unrelated third party to get another opinion or find out if what I’m thinking is totally off-base. I will almost never divulge something to someone who knows the other person — that starts to feel like it’s violating a trust.

    I’m surprised by the 30 minute factoid — that seems way too fast — but perhaps I’m just naive about it?

    • I agree! Revealing it to a totally unrelated third party always feels like it doesn’t count. I make a point not to reveal to anyone who knows the party in question or has any vested interest in the news.

  3. I guess I judge things by if they’re “good” or “bad”. As in, would it make the person feel bad to know if this news were being spread? Then, I normally keep it to myself (not having a husband/boyfriend to share things with currently). But, if it’s good news, I will blab. I guess I just like to share good news. However, I do try to stay quiet or let the person tell their own news if I feel like they need to…

    • I used to feel this way too–especially if it wasn’t a “secret” per se, just good news. Now I’m almost MORE hesitant to share good news, as I’ve gotten myself in some trouble by spreading good news that wasn’t mine to share. Lesson learned: People like to share their own news!!

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