Sharing a secret can be the greatest show of love - or the greatest abuse of power

Tips to support others through trying times has been discussed as part of "Psychology Matters" on The Chrissy B Show, Sky191, Monday, Wednesday, Friday, 10pm.

As a coach I learn things about people which may otherwise not be disclosed...usually because they are embarassing, or things that are simply "half thoughts" and sharing them - even with loved ones - may muddy the waters for the person trying to work through. As a coach I am also bound by an ethical code including the management of confidential information - which is privileged except under 3 circumstances:

- danger to the self

- danger to others

- danger to the company (eg. defrauding)

This is a very explicit part of the coaching agreement.

As a person, perhaps because I am a good listener, I often also get told things which may also fulfil a similar place in the mind of the speaker - things which they'd really rather not say on facebook!

Don't say anything but...

I am ashamed to admit that in the past, whether driven by a desire "to be liked"; for "entertainment" and the "drama" of being able to reveal a secret; to demonstrate power; or even just to make conversation (which is the worst of all); I have disclosed things which I know are things I was trusted with. There was a time where your trust (not as a coach, but certainly as a friend) would have been misplaced.

This was some years ago, and I changed my ways as I realised that all that was happening was that my friendship group had become one which seemed to thrive on gossip. Even if I was "queen bee" - my crown was severely tarnished.

Be the friend you want to have

Part of this change was my own thoughts about what I valued in friendship - loyalty, kindness, trust, and I saw that the circle I had at the time was not steeped in any of this. It was "fair weathered" at best. So instead I began focusing on living my values, and recognising who remained - and returned the acts.

Over time, my friendships changed. Those which stayed deepened, fuelled by said values - not by "sensation"; new friendships formed, built on the same principles, and I am grateful every day that I have people around me whom I trust and who trust me in equal measure. It also makes me feel good - really good.

Respect the treasure you are entrusted with

Now, if someone discloses something, I hold it for them. If someone values me enough to ask me for help, I do my best to meet that need. I remember, I ask them about it - often because they may not find they can talk about it with anyone else. I recognise how privileged I am to be invited into that knowledge, especially because it is often something which makes them feel vulnerable and exposed. To "Pass it on" is the equivalent of sharing naked photographs!

Similarly, if I needed to share, they would be someone I know would be as respectful of me.

While not all "secrets" are created equal, it doesn't mean some should be deemed less valuable - but you may decide to choose who you are willing to play confidante for!

Any secret is not to be "given away", but you might find you are one of many who knows.

Some people don't so much "share" as "broadcast". Those people potentially have any number of others to hold their hand - if they are not discerning in who they tell, I tend not to offer my time to listen, and I certainly don't offer counsel*. (Neither do I share with them).

*It is notable that sometimes these people do not have anyone close, which may result in the need to call out for attention, but my personal boundaries are such that if you approach me directly, then of course I will try and support you - the moment you do not value me I will withdraw my time.

Healthy friendships are based on shared values, not gossip

My behaviours - and indeed my relationships - are much improved, perhaps because my time and energy is directed at those with whom I share my values. They are people who I know would never use a disclosure against me, nor as fodder for their own agenda. Perhaps I have a smaller group now, but I have a healthier one and when we are not discussing anything personal we converse on all manner of subjects to learn and to reflect with like-minded souls.

While gossip may be a form of bonding - it attracts only those who, simply, wish to bond over gossip.

Audrey is a Chartered Psychologist (CPsychol), and the author of "The Leader's Guide to Mindfulness" (Pearson & FT series) and "Be A Great Manager - Now" (Pub Pearson, 2016, Book of the Month in WH Smith Travel Stores). She is a CPD Accredited speaker, trainer, and qualified FIRO-B and NLP Practitioner. She is the founding Development Coach and Training Consultant with her training consultancy CLICK Training, and the resident psychologist on The Chrissy B Show (Sky191), the UK's only TV programme dedicated to mental health and wellbeing. She often presents at National and International conferences in the fields of leadership and team cohesion, and is part of the Amity University conference panel. She currently lectures in Personal Development and Mindfulness and offers psychological consultancy in these areas to organisations.

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