DON’T SHUSH ME
Which is the lesser evil: The constant worry you feel from hiding something or the vulnerability and pain you may experience if you fess up? It depends on the relationship, but research shows the mental and physical problems that come with being secretive are cut by at least half when you start speaking the truth.
And of course, there’s this: Personal bonds are built on trust. If you keep a secret that directly affects another person (eg, the dent you put in your friend’s car), you miss out on the benefits—like overall better health and a longer life—that often come with feeling known and understood, says New York City psychiatrist Dr Gail Saltz. “If they reject you, it probably wasn’t a very healthy relationship.”
If your secret is more of the haunting personal variety, such as a lifelong eating disorder, you can minimise the odds that you’ll feel judged by confiding in an empathetic friend whose reaction is more likely to be “I’m so glad you felt safe sharing” than “Um, why have you never told me?” says psychiatrist Dr Amy Banks, of the Wellesley Centres for Women.
Speaking up is easier said than done, but these steps can help make the conversation go more smoothly.
1 Make time. Don’t spring your reveal in public or when the person you’re confessing to won’t have time to process. Say you have something to discuss and set aside a specific date and place to do so, in person.
2 Admit this is hard for you. Especially if your truth will sting. Let the other person know that you’re truly sorry and trying to make amends.
3 Be direct. Spill your secret or own your lie as straightforwardly as you can. Don’t go off on tangents or make excuses.
4 Take your medicine. Your admission may elicit
tears or silence, but if you’re confessing something that screws with the person you’re telling, your job is to pull on your big-girl pants and deal, not get defensive. If the other person needs time to think, say you’ll be there when he or she is ready to talk. The follow-up is, in many ways, more important than the reveal, says Saltz. Translation: If you don’t respect that it may take someone a while to digest the news, you could torpedo the relationship.