Columbia Business School Professor Michael Slepian on the Secret Life of Secrets

Columbia Business School professor Michael Slepian Ph.D. - The Secret Life of Secrets. | Brought to you by Babbel (

Michael Slepian Ph.D. is the Sanford C. Bernstein & Co. Associate Professor of Leadership and Ethics at Columbia University. A recipient of the Rising Star Award from the Association for Psychological Science, he is the leading expert on the psychology of secrets. Today we are discussing his book (which releases today) THE SECRET LIFE OF SECRETS: How Our Inner Worlds Shape Well-Being, Relationships, and Who We Are. His research has been covered by The New York Times, The Atlantic, The New Yorker, The Economist, The Wall Street Journal, the BBC, and more.

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What I discuss with Michael Slepian
0:00 Announcements and introduction
2:23 Introducing Michael Slepian
3:59 Family secrets
7:53 What is the definition of a secret?
9:03 How is secrecy different from privacy?
10:54 The 38 categories of secrets that people keep
13:43 The secrets of Tony Soprano and Edward Snowden
16:10 How does the concealing of secrets impact well being?
20:26 How a chimpanzee helps illustrate the birth of secrets
27:00 Advice for how to handle secrecy with your kids
29:50 Groundbreaking hill slant research on secrets
34:00 Importance of doing secrecy research outside of a lab
42:30 Why does keeping a secret have the potential to do more harm than good?
44:50 Why do some secrets hurt while others do not?
46:50 Why do people fall into this unhelpful, negative thinking?
49:50 How does secrecy impact us accepting ourselves?
51:30 How to deflect direct questions in a conversation about a secret
59:00 Wrap Up and Synthesis

In this episode, Michael Slepian joins us to discuss his new book The Secret Life of Secrets where he gives a masterclass on the psychology of secrets. Drawing on over a decade of original research, Slepian reveals the surprising ways that secrets pervade our lives and offers science-based strategies that make them easier to live with. The result is a rare window into the inner workings of our minds, our relationships, and our sense of who we are.

Our secrets can weigh heavily upon us. Yet the burden of secrecy, Slepian argues, rarely stems from the work it takes to keep a secret hidden. Rather, the weight of our secrets comes from carrying them alone, without the support of others. Whether we are motivated to protect our reputation, a relationship, a loved one’s feelings, or some personal or professional goal, one thing is clear: Holding back some part of our inner world is often lonely and isolating. But it doesn’t have to be.

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