Creating Good Relationships
Edited By Vince Waldron and Douglas Kelley
Moral Talk Across the Lifespan offers a stimulating blend of social science research and moral reflection. It is a key text for courses in Relational Communication, Family Communication, Interpersonal Communication, and Communication Ethics.
Chapter Seven: The Morality of Revealing Others’ Secrets
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The Morality OF Revealing Others’ Secrets
ANITA L. VANGELISTI & ERIN C. NELSON
Through the study of secrecy, we encounter what human beings want above all to protect: the sacred, the intimate, the fragile, the dangerous, and the forbidden
—BOK , 1983, p. 281
Secrets are often shared, then re-told, and even shared again. In fact, when people are told a secret about someone else, it is not uncommon for them to disclose the secret to a third party. In some cases, the reasons people divulge a secret about someone else are frivolous or self-serving. Individuals reveal the secret because it is entertaining, because it fits into a particular conversation, or because it affords them social status. In other cases, the reasons are much more serious. People may disclose a secret in an effort to protect someone from harm or even in an effort to save someone’s life. When people choose to divulge a secret about someone else, they make judgments about whether to disclose and whether the reasons they might disclose are good ones. Because revealing secrets can have substantial influences on individuals and their personal relationships, the criteria that people use in deciding whether to divulge secrets—and the way they evaluate those criteria—are important.
The purpose of the current chapter is to examine the moral assessments associated with revealing secrets about other people. First, the morality involved in...
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