Table of Contents

  • Introduction: Playing It Close To The Chest
  • The Compulsion to Share
  • The Importance of Privacy
  • What to Keep Under Wraps
  • Strategies for Maintaining Privacy
    • Offering Sacrificial Lambs
    • Mastering Vagueness
      • An Example of Vagueness In A Conversation
    • Asserting Your Comfort Level
  • Who do you know you can trust?
  • Conclusion: The Value of Keeping Your Private Life Private
  • Actionables

Introduction: Playing It Close To The Chest

As social creatures, we want to feel a connection to others. The best way to express and develop this connection is to discuss topics that are personally important to us.

However, many people are not trustworthy. They may take personal information and use it against you. You may seek community, but manipulators will take advantage of your trust.

Today, I want to walk you through how to keep your personal life private. How do you navigate social settings and manage personal information without revealing too much about yourself? And why is it important to play it “close to the chest”?

Let’s start at the top by discussing why we overshare.

The Compulsion to Share

“I find it wholesome to be alone the greater part of the time. To be in company, even with the best, is soon wearisome and dissipating. I love to be alone. I never found the companion that was so companionable as solitude.” – Henry David Thoreau

Humans understand the world through reason, observation, and communal consensus. We desperately need others to help us grasp what is right and wrong. Very few of us can forge our path exclusively separate from the people around us.

We also crave community and trust, seeking the right balance between vulnerability and privacy in relationships. Who doesn’t want a friend or a lover? Who doesn’t want to trust others? The best way to build a relationship is through trust. The best way to earn trust is through vulnerability, and the best way to be vulnerable is to discuss what is personal.

But you can’t rely on everyone. For example, you may want to show your boss some personal projects. You’ll feel closer to him because you’re talking about what matters to you. However, he may start using your personal projects to criticize your “lack of commitment” to the company.

It’s prudent to keep your personal information private. Let’s explore the benefits of keeping things private.

The Importance of Privacy

Privacy | The Importance of Protecting Your Privacy

Your privacy is a tool and a source of power. Guard it well.

We all have a past. Our past mistakes and decisions define who we are, highlighting the importance of protecting personal details. When we first meet new people, they don’t know who we are or what we’ve done. This ignorance gives us power as we can keep personal details to ourselves, no matter how noble or sordid.

It is foolish to give up this power. We remove a driving reason for people to get to know us. Developing a friendship with someone gives you access to their personal lives, passions, and fears. In a healthy situation, details about yourself are slowly revealed as you interact and communicate with your friend. However, if you reveal too much about yourself too quickly, you remove a reason to get to know you. Furthermore, too much information may bother or disturb the person you’re befriending.

Lastly, weak individuals may treat you with a familiarity you may find uncomfortable. When we freely reveal everything about ourselves, we give people the details they need to poke, prod, and mock. A weak individual may give you a sordid nickname because of a childhood tragedy. Or, they may mention your imperfect past to undermine your efforts to improve today.

This example is a little lewd, but my point is similar to men and sex. If a man can freely have sex with a woman, what incentive does he have to restrain his urges, fall in love with the woman, and commit to her? Sex is a powerful desire for men, and if a woman freely provides it, you remove a major incentive for a man to be prudent, patient, and respectful when dealing with women.

Next, let’s explore a quick list of the items you should want to keep under wraps.

What to Keep Under Wraps

“Solitude sometimes is best society.” – John Milton

I have a long list of things you should keep under wraps. Here are a few:

  • Sexual Life: Who you sleep with is no one’s business. Individuals will judge you based on your sexual past. You want to withhold that information and develop a relationship with people instead of being too forthcoming. Some relationships, like marriage, are not ambiguous. But you don’t need to discuss your preferred position, partner number, etc.
  • Personal Addictions: Your addictions are actions you’ve engaged in when you are your weakest. People can use this knowledge against you. They can exploit that weakness, belittle it, or mock you. For example, if you have a vice you’ve overcome, weak individuals may call you a hypocrite for opposing that vice. Until you can determine the sincerity of the individuals around you, you will want to avoid oversharing your past struggles.
  • Mental health issues and struggles: We all have mental health struggles, from depression to ADHD. As much as we exalt victimhood, we have no desire to challenge or respect people we perceive as victims. We do not humanize them or treat them competently. Keep your mental health under wraps. People will treat you as handicapped if you are too forthcoming with your medical struggles. Being viewed as handicapped will stunt your career growth, remove you from the dating pool, and produce other subtle ways of ostracism.
  • Personal projects: This is especially true of your 9 to 5. Your personal projects or side hustles naturally compete with other areas of your life. If you have goals, those you work with and for will treat those goals with hostility. If people don’t know what you do in your spare time, they can’t put limits on it. They also can’t assume your dedication and ambitions.

Each item involves intimacy in your life. You don’t want strangers in your bedroom or engaged in your addictions. You should treat most people like strangers until you can trust them with details about your life.

Strategies for Maintaining Privacy

Strategies for maintaining privacy in social interactions vary, including offering sacrificial lambs and mastering vagueness. Each strategy involves protecting your privacy so you don’t have to reveal information. Lastly, you can apply these strategies in diverse settings with different types of people and power dynamics.

Offering Sacrificial Lambs

the art of conversation | woman talking

In conversation, you must master the art of misdirection when dealing with manipulators and weak individuals.

When dealing with people, always provide facts that aren’t important. Talk about great memories or minor inconveniences from your childhood. Maybe a moment when you were rained on or got a toy you liked. But never go too deep into trauma or familial stability.

Or, discuss politics in a way that does not require you to commit to one side. For example, “I don’t know much about that. Could you explain it further?” Or, “What does the other side say about that position if you had to be charitable?”

Most weak individuals are looking for emotional highs. They cannot handle authentic conversation. When you ask distracting questions or provide small details about yourself, you can direct these people elsewhere. They will see your misdirection as “engagement” and will not pry too deeply for more about you or your life.

Offering these sacrificial lambs will buy you time. You can meet the social norms and needs of others without compromising your privacy, ensuring you can manage multiple social settings, from family gatherings to work, without worrying about indulging too much.

Mastering Vagueness

When talking to others, being vague is critical. Manipulators want details about your life. The more information they have, the easier they can use your life to undermine your success, spread rumors, or dissuade your personal growth.

Therefore, an excellent policy is to express vagueness. When you offer shallow details, people are forced to make assumptions or attempt to close the gap. This will always make them doubt if they know who you truly are. And they can’t express anger – you’ve offered enough shallow details in the first step.

And manipulators never want to be too direct. They want to ask the right questions in the right way. They are prying if they have to be too direct, which isn’t a good look.

An Example of Vagueness In A Conversation

A good example is if someone asks about your childhood, you should express vagueness. You don’t need to go into detail about your parents’ divorce or happy marriage.

If your parents divorced, say, “My parents no longer live together, and it’s been that way for a few years. I visit both of them regularly. What’s your family life like?”

Notice I did not give a year. I did not state why the divorce happened. I did not discuss in detail how the divorce affected me. I didn’t even mention there was a divorce.

People can and will ask follow-up questions, so keep your answers vague. “So your parents are divorced?” “For some time, yes.”

“When did they divorce?” “It’s been a few years.” And so on.

When people get more detailed with their questioning, follow the next step to push back those who pry too much.

Asserting Your Comfort Level

comfort level conversation

Sometimes, you must be stern when talking to people.

When all else fails, you have to be direct. Being clear about your comfort level is the riskiest move because it draws a clear line in the sand. Weak individuals do not like such clarity and will take offense to your daring to keep your private life private.

For example, I’ve been married for almost a decade, but I won’t indulge my sexual activities. I can cite my discomfort at such a thing and my desire to respect my wife. You can put your foot down in these instances. Reference your comfort or higher ideals.

They may say, “Well, you can’t talk about this with friends?” There are one of three ways to counter back:

  • “To be fair, my friends usually don’t pry when I’ve made my discomfort clear.”
  • “Yeah, but my wife would prefer that I don’t go into too much detail about that.”
  • ” I just don’t feel comfortable discussing that with anyone outside my wife.”

Now, being direct with your comfort level will create hostility. Manipulators do not like it when others set firm boundaries. You should observe who is bothered by your stance and prepare for them to start rumors, gossip, and passive-aggressively attack you.

The best ways to deal with attacks are:

  • Hold your ground. Continue to keep your private life private.
  • Have an escape plan: If this is a job you’re working, have something else lined up, as the environment may become too toxic after a while. The same goes for families or local communities. If people treat you poorly because you have boundaries, find a way to separate yourself from them.
  • Continue to be a positive, capable person. The community will punish the manipulator when the manipulator tries to ruin a good person’s reputation. If you bring enough value to your community, you can weather the storm of gossip and rumors. Therefore, be kind, attentive, and productive.

Lastly, always be kind, professional, and mature when establishing boundaries. Never be rude or aggressive. Notice above when I restated my comfort level but did not deny the person being a friend. You have to be as charitable and diplomatic as possible while being firm.

Who do you know you can trust?

“We live, in fact, in a world starved for solitude, silence, and private: and therefore starved for meditation and true friendship.” – C.S. Lewis

Identifying trustworthy individuals is key to developing deeper relationships without compromising your personal boundaries. That is difficult to do if you’re always on the defensive. So when can you let your guard down?

As always, you look at their actions. Sincere people suffer for their beliefs: if they want to know about you, they will act in a way that shows trust. They will talk about their lives, ask genuine questions, and, more importantly, respect and acknowledge your reservations.

Additionally, trustworthy people live virtuous lives. They work hard and contribute to their community. They have children or responsibilities they care for.

The people with no stake in life or horse in the race will never provide the greatness you can trust.

Conclusion: The Value of Keeping Your Private Life Private

I will extend an olive branch by saying you can disclose information as you get to know people.

However, I strongly argue there’s nothing wrong with taking relationships slowly and playing it safe. Your familial, work, and even personal relationships can stand a little patience and discernment. Not everyone needs to know everything about you.

Your privacy is a power source, and effectively managing privacy in personal relationships enhances this power. Being able to redefine who you are in the eyes of manipulators is what you need to thrive in a broken, evil world. The less weak individuals know about you, the more power you will have.

Actionables

  1. Past Regrets: Do you have any past regrets about sharing too much information with others? What did you learn from this situation? What did the oversharing do for your relationships?
  2. Other People Oversharing: Has anyone ever overshared with you? How did you feel? What did you do with that information?
  3. Refraining – Do you remember a time when you did refrain from oversharing? How did you feel afterward when you kept your private life private?
  4. Determining Your Comfort Level: What is “private” to you? What are you comfortable talking about? What would you prefer not to discuss with others?
  5. Privacy Audit: Conduct a weekly privacy audit of your social media accounts. Review your posts, shared information, and privacy settings to ensure you’re only sharing information you’re comfortable with a wider audience knowing.
  6. Reflection On Digital Footprint: How does controlling your digital footprint affect your sense of privacy and security?
  7. Boundary Setting Exercise: Identify one area of your life (e.g., work, personal projects, relationships) where your boundaries are frequently tested. Practice setting a clear boundary in this area and observe the reactions from others. How did establishing a clear boundary make you feel? Were there any unexpected outcomes?
  8. Selective Sharing Practice: For one week, consciously decide what personal information you share in conversations, focusing on withholding details that do not serve to build trust or deepen a relationship. Notice when you feel the urge to overshare and redirect the conversation. Did you notice a difference in your interactions? How did it affect your relationships?
  9. Journaling for Privacy: Keep a privacy journal for a month. Record instances when you shared personal information, noting why you chose to share, how it was received, and how you felt afterward. What patterns do you notice in your sharing behavior? Are there areas where you could improve your privacy management?

Please remember it’s important to do the actionables. You’re not on this earth to simply read but to do. To become an individual, you must act more than you consume.

*Image credit to Unsplash.