How to Keep a Secret

Cristina Tudino, SELF magazine

The average woman tells in a paltry 32 minutes. Follow our example and find out why.

THE BIG FAT SECRET:
Your friend Sarah tells you that despite being engaged, she hooked up with your hot guy pal Dave. Here's what races through your brain, with a play-by-play from experts...

IN THE FIRST FIVE MINUTES
You: OMG, that's nuts! Dave's hot, but still. I wonder if I would ever cheat?

Your Brain Decoded: It's all about...you! "Your first response is to suss out what you can take away from the secret," says Frank McAndrew, Ph.D., professor of psychology at Knox College. By putting yourself in your pal's shoes, you learn to deal with similar issues in your life.

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AFTER 10 MINUTES
You: Allie would freak out if she knew about this. This is sooo big! I've got tell her.

Your Brain Decoded: Seeming in the know is vital to your social status, McAndrew says. In other words, you want to be popular, and sharing gossip can get you there. Of course, there's always the drama factor. It's tough to resist telling when you know you'll get a jaw-dropping reaction.

AFTER 20 MINUTES
You: Allie and I haven't talked much lately. If I tell her, we'll totally bond. Plus, I know Allie was tempted to cheat on her fiance.

Your Brain Decoded: Women are wired to share and connect. "That's how they get closer," McAndrew says. And if you know two friends are coping with the same thing, you may want to unload to try to help. (See? You can dish with good intentions.)

AFTER 25 MINUTES
You: Damn! I can't stop thinking about this. I absolutely need to tell someone.
Your Brain Decoded: The emotional burden of withholding the secret ultimately pushes many women over the edge. "It actually eats away at you until you can't think of anything else," McAndrew explains.

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AFTER 30 MINUTES
You: I'll call Allie and mention Sarah. If the Dave story comes out, it's not my fault.

Your Brain Decoded: Instead of telling outright, you drop a hint-"Do you think Sarah's getting cold feet?"-to transfer responsibility. "We often allow someone to beat the news out of us," says Andrea Bonior, Ph.D., author of The Friendship Fix.

AFTER 32 MINUTES
You: "You won't believe it-Sarah hooked up with Dave!"

Your Brain Decoded: You feel a wave of relief, then a rush of adrenaline as your pal reacts. ("Shut up!") It feels so good, you may even tell someone else.

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1 MINUTE TO 1 DAY LATER
You: Ugh. I feel like such a bad person. I hope Sarah doesn't find out.

Your Brain Decoded: Besides the remorse, which can set in almost indefinitely, there's the worry that your friend will discover you've broken her confidence-and that she'll never trust you with a secret again. Adios, adrenaline high. Hello, regret hangover.

YOU TOLD. SHE KNOWS. NOW WHAT?

Don't wait for her to call: "If you even suspect your friend knows, confess and apologize so you won't be in more trouble for hiding it," Bonior says.

Don't make excuses: Tell her that you screwed up, you feel terrible and you'll do anything to regain her trust. By coming clean, you'll show you're committed to being a better confidante in the future.


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