Secrets are kept or revealed for a variety of complex reasons—utter carelessness, actual malice, self-serving manipulation, or altruistic protection of others.
- Forgetfulness and negligence often initiate letting a secret slip; some people may not understand the potential consequences of not keeping somebody’s secret to themselves.
- As the World War II idiom cautions, loose lips sink ships. Some blabbermouths just can’t be the soul of discretion—they have no filters and don’t concern themselves with betraying others’ trust.
- Some folks justify spreading others’ secrets by convincing themselves that the secret is common knowledge—if a source shared a secret with them, the source may have shared it with others too.
- Some nefarious people use secrets they’re supposed to keep as currency to curry favor with someone else. An egregious recent example is that of McKinsey’s Managing Director Rajat Gupta revealing confidential information about Goldman Sachs, on whose board of directors he sat, to hedge fund manager Raj Rajaratnam.
- Some people may assume an altruistic—or self-righteous—mind-set and reveal a secret assuming that divulging the secret could be more beneficial to those concerned than keeping the secret.
- Some people reveal secrets because they can’t bear the mental distress of keeping the secret. Often, the bigger the secret, the harder it is to keep it.