New release - PASSION STRUCK


Michael Slepian – The Secret Life of Secrets: How Do We Trust Others With Our Secrets

Michael Slepian – The Secret Life of Secrets: How Do We Trust Others With Our 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, etc.

–► Buy Michael Slepian’s New Book, The Secret Life of Secrets

Positive secrets. Maybe at first blush, it sounds like it’s an oxymoron. But in fact, there’s a lot of really positive things that we will often keep to ourselves.

Michael Slepian

Hear the secrets and philosophy of the World’s GREATEST high achievers every Monday and Wednesday, and tune in each week for an inspirational Momentum Friday solo message.

Like this show? Please leave us a review here – even one sentence helps! Post a screenshot of you listening on Instagram & tag us to thank you personally!

Listen to the episode on Apple PodcastsSpotifyPodcast AddictPocket CastsStitcherCastboxGoogle PodcastsAmazon Musicor on your favorite podcast platform. You can watch the interview on YouTube below.


What I Discuss With Michael Slepian

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 decodes the surprising ways 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 effort it requires to keep a secret disclosed. Instead, the significance of our secrets comes from carrying them internally, without support from 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.

  • Why do families keep secrets and what was the secret they kept from Michael?
  • How do you define secrecy?
  • How is secrecy different from privacy?
  • The 38 categories of secrets that people keep
  • The secrets of Tony Soprano and Edward Snowden and why Michael uses them throughout the book
  • How does the concealing of secrets impact well-being?
  • Why chimpanzees help illustrate the birth of secrets
  • Advice for how to handle secrecy with your kids and teens
  • Groundbreaking hill slant research on secrets
  • Importance of doing secrecy research outside of a lab environment
  • Why keeping a secret has the potential to do more harm than good
  • Why do some secrets hurt while others do not?
  • Why do people fall into this unhelpful, negative thinking?
  • How does secrecy impact us accepting ourselves?
  • How to deflect direct questions in a conversation about a secret
  • Have any questions, comments, or stories you’d like to share? Drop us a line at [email protected]m!
  • And much more…
146 | The Secret Life of Secrets | Michael Slepian | Passion Struck with John R. Miles
146 | The Secret Life of Secrets | Michael Slepian | Passion Struck with John R. Miles

Thank You To Our Sponsors: More Info At PassionStruck.Com/Deals

Babbel logo. Sponsor of Passion Struck with John R. Miles

This episode of Passion Struck with John R. Miles is brought to you by Babbel: the new way to learn a foreign language. Save up to 60 % off your subscription when you go to

Our Patreon Page:

Starter Packs

Michael Slepian quote from Passion Struck: Secrets harm us because our minds return to these secrets repeatedly, even if it's not difficult to conceal in conversation. You still have to live with that secret in your thoughts alone.

New to the show? These Starter Packs are collections of our most popular episodes grouped by topic, and we now have them also on Spotify. You can also browse starter packs for existing listeners to find your old favorites. Every week, John interviews everyday heroes from all walks of life. Learn how to subscribe to the show and never miss a new episode and topic.

Like this? Please subscribe, and join me on my new YouTube platform for peak performance, life coaching, and personal growth:

More About The Secret Life of Secrets With Michael Slepian

I asked Michael Slepian if he had tips for how to deflect direct questions in a conversation about a secret?

Michael explains, “This was a fun one, there are a lot of things you can do to deflect. The first thing is to never bring up the conversation topic. Do you have a secret about money? Never talk about money with anyone that can only get you so far because as everyone knows, you are not the sole arbiter of which topics are introduced into the conversation. What happens when someone asks you a question that you don’t want to answer?

The Secret Life of Secrets by Michael Slepian for passion struck

One option is to just answer ‘I don’t want to tell you that or I won’t speak to that.’ Which is generally not a very good strategy. It’s very direct. It can be very efficient. But it might feel kind of weird or awkward or be perceived as rude even. So what can you do instead? That’s when we get to deflection. It turns out, there are so many different ways you can deflect in ways that won’t even be apparent that you’re deflecting. One of the best ways to do this is to just ask a question of your own.

Someone asks you a question that if answered would reveal your secret. You can quickly pivot and ask a question about the route and most people who will start answering the question in the conversation can simply move on. What you’re trying to do, essentially, is to give an answer that sort of pushes the conversation in another direction. If you can’t think of a question, you can just think about anything else that’s on your mind and just say ‘oh my God, I’m so hungry.’ Did you bring lunch today? Whatever it is, people naturally just answer the questions that are asked of them. And you can just push the conversation in a different direction.

This feels like this one wouldn’t work because it’s too easy. But it really is easy. If you’ve ever been in a conversation and you had an anecdote that you were ready to enter into the conversation, and then you realize you missed your chance. Conversations. Topics move so rapidly. If there are multiple people in the conversation, you’re fine. You can just stay quiet. Now, what if a question is asked directly to you? If someone says very clearly, I have a question for you to answer. At that point, if they’re really, really pressing you, a final strategy is to express gratitude is to thank them.

If someone’s asking you about something that’s kind of difficult for you to talk about that person is probably not trying to take you down. That person is probably trying to help you. And if you care about the relationship with that person, one of the most effective things you can do when someone asks you a question that you don’t want to answer is gonna be like, ‘Thank you for asking me about that. I really appreciate that you care about me to check in on me.’ But saying you are can be really helpful.

We don’t like to think our friends, our partners or our family don’t feel comfortable enough to open up to us. So what you want to do is signal it’s not the person asking, what’s the problem? It’s just the timing or that you need more time. And you could say thanks for asking, I really value our relationship, or it means a lot to me that you have asked me that. But I need more time to think about this, or I don’t want to talk about this right now. And that can really help.”

Thanks, Michael Slepian!

If you enjoyed this interview with Michael Slepian, let him know by clicking on the link below and sending him a quick shout on Instagram or Twitter:

Click here to thank Michael Slepian on Twitter!

Click here to thank Michael Slepian on Instagram!

Click here to let John R. Miles know about your number one takeaway from this episode!

And if you want us to answer your questions or you have a topic you would like John to discuss on one of our upcoming weekly Momentum Friday episodes, drop us a line at [email protected].

Resources From The Show With Michael Slepian

Please note that some of the links on this page (books, movies, music, etc.) lead to affiliate programs for which The Passion Struck podcast receives compensation. It’s just one of the ways we keep the lights on around here. Thank you so much for being so supportive!

* Website:

* LinkedIn:

* Columbia University:

* Twitter:





* My interview with Tricia Manning: 

* My interview with Jordan Harbinger on Why Legacy is Greater Than Currency:

* My interview with Sarah Fay: 

* My interview with Admiral James Stavridis: 

* My solo episode on why micro choices matter:

* My solo episode on why you must feel to heal:

About Today’s Guest Michael Slepian

Passion Struck podcast album cover with Michael Slepian episode 146 on secrets

Michael Slepian is a professor of management at Columbia Business School. He studies the psychological effects of secrecy, the development and formation of trust, and deception detection. He maintains the project at Columbia University.

Follow John R. Miles On The Socials

* Twitter:

* Facebook:

* Medium:​

* Instagram:

* LinkedIn:

* Blog:

* Instagram:

* Gear:

John R. Miles is a serial entrepreneur and the CEO and founder of Passion Struck. This full-service media company helps people live intentionally by creating best-in-class educational and entertainment content. John is also a prolific public speaker, venture capitalist, and author named to the ComputerWorld Top 100 IT Leaders.

John is the host of the PassionStruckPodcast. A show focused on exploring the mindset and philosophy of the world’s most inspiring people to learn their lessons to living intentionally. Passion Struck aspires to speak to the humanity of people in a way that makes them want to live better, be better and impact.

Stay tuned for John’s latest project, his upcoming book, which will be published in summer 2022.

Learn more about me:

Download the 5 Simple Steps to Find Your Passion
Scroll to Top