During the week I had a conversation with someone about this subject and was reminded how important it is to respect the other person’s world.
What’s the big deal, why is this important, you might well ask – given that with modern technology we are often left feeling there are no secrets anymore?
My mum used to say she was a very private person – what did that mean? More importantly, what did it mean to her and did the meaning she gave that really serve her?
When people are seeking help, whether it’s professional or they are just wanting to share a problem – after all a problem shared is a problem halved, right? In these situations people really want to know that the sharing stops with you.
It doesn’t matter what we might think about the issue, to the other person (the person with the problem), their stuff is private and to share that is a breach of the trust they have placed in you.
Sharing a problem allows the listener to possibly shed some light on the issue, to show the problem owner another way of looking at their problem and, possibly, that other way of looking at the problem (which we call a reframe), could help the problem disappear. After all, it’s what we make an event mean that gives it the weight which can lead to the issue being a problem.
When I was on my way to boarding school for the first time I was 12. I remember my mum telling me I was on y own now and if I got into trouble, that was my problem because she wasn’t going to be there to sort it out for me.
OK, so to be fair to my mum, what was she saying – be strong, stand up for yourself, take responsibility for your own stuff and get on with it.
What did I make that mean – I need to do it all by myself, I have to make my own decisions, I can’t ask for help, I need to keep my cards close to my chest and when I do get into trouble I need to find my own solutions.
So what happened – I didn’t share. I felt alone and many times I didn’t really know how to cope and you can be sure I never asked for help and I certainly never asked my mum for help. My interpretation of that event did not enhance our relationship I can assure you.
Creating an environment of trust allows the other person to feel safe wen sharing their inner secrets. They want to feel secure and are more likely to be open and, therefore, open to possible solutions, when they feel they can trust you.
What is trust and privacy and what makes it important? What does all that mean to you? In my coaching world, it’s about being up front with the clients and letting them know when you might need to share their information. This could be in a situation where I, the coach, felt they were about to harm themselves or someone else, in which case I have a professional obligation to report this. It could also be that I am recording the session so my coaching can be evaluated or so I can go over what the client has said with the intention of helping them further.
Trust is a value which is very sacred and when the client is sharing their darkest secrets, they want to feel good about that sharing and it gives them the safety net they need to disclose those inner secrets and feelings with the goal of moving forward.
How do we do this – how do we keep a secret?
The key for me is respecting the other person’s world. When they feel you are supporting them, the client will feel safer and that you are helping them. You are honouring the client. In respecting their world and honouring the client, I am also honouring my own values. This is absolutely paramount because when your values have been violated, you are not in a happy place and this can be really stressful.
You have probably all heard – you get what you focus on. So when you’re totally focussed on someone’s “secret”- it is constantly in the forefront of your mind and you feel compelled to do something about it because it is driving you mad – all you can do is think about that secret. It’s driving you crazy, you just have to tell someone – and that is exactly what many people do. They tell someone else the sacred secret. By doing all this, they have relieved their immediate problem – and created untold more problems. They have violated the trust with the problem owner, they have violated their own value and as a result they could have lost a friend or a client (depending on the relationship between the problem owner and the listener), they have stooped to the level of gossip by sharing someone’s secret, they have demonstrated the total lack of respect for that person’s world and, in short, they are in deep trouble. They feel awful.
How do I keep the secrets? I let them go – that is, out of my mind – until I see the person again. I focus on other things and stay in the moment with what I’m doing, this could be another client or something completely different. As we can only think of one thing at the time, it then puts the secret out of my mind. In short, I file it away where it belongs and is safe until I need it again.
So what if next time someone shares a secret with you, just ask yourself – do I need to be told this is a secret or can I work that much out for myself?
What will I gain if I tell someone else?
What will I lose if I tell someone else?
Is it worth it?
Whose needs are being met – are you wanting to meet a need of your own or are you honouring your friend’s trust that has been placed in you?
Remember – every champion deserves a great coach – why not you?