You may have heard the saying “never air your dirty laundry”, but do you understand it’s meaning and importance? Do you live by that rule? Society today glorifies invasive media like TMZ, Twitter and The Bachelor, making it very difficult to imagine a time when intimate details of one’s life were kept within the walls of one’s home. Most people share all aspects of their lives with anyone who will listen (or hit “like”), so the concept of privacy may seem foreign. Don’t let the media fool you; privacy and discretion still go a long way.
Take a moment to visualize the literal concept of “airing dirty laundry”. Imagine hanging waste-stained clothing outside your home for all of your neighbors to see. Would you ever actually do that, or would the embarrassment compel you to keep those clothes away from anyone’s view? When you air dirty laundry, you share information about conflicts you are having, which are usually with other people in your life. It could be the fight you had with your girlfriend for the last couple weeks regarding the ex that won’t leave her alone. Maybe it’s the disagreement you had with your boss over culture in the office. Potentially it’s a family matter concerning a falling out you’ve had with a relative. Whatever the case may be, the moment you begin to share these personal challenges with anyone outside your very selective inner circle is the moment you undermine your credibility as a human being.
Sure, we all need to vent. It feels good to let things out and talk things through. Fortunately, most of us have select “people” for those conversations; trusted friends or family members with whom we can share intimate details of our life, without judgment or shame. We confide in these select people because we feel that their opinions are valid and their discretion is guaranteed. We trust them with our secrets. The more people that know a secret, the higher the likelihood of someone slipping up and revealing it, regardless of whether or not they have good or bad intentions. But say if it isn’t a secret? What if it’s just more of a personal matter? How does sharing that personal, but not secret, issue undermine your credibility?
Remember; the people around you are constantly observing your behavior, including both verbal and nonverbal communication. They do this to understand you better and to assess where you fit into their life (if anywhere). Are you a best friend, a friend, an acquaintance, a co-worker, a friendly neighbor, a passerby or an enemy? Are you someone they enjoy, or dislike? Are you trustworthy or sneaky? Do they respect you, or are you a joke to them? The moment you air “dirty laundry”, you are communicating that you are untrustworthy and you lack discretion. This usually creates a loss of respect, and consequently, people put a barrier between themselves and you.
The reason this happens is people automatically think if you’d share such personal details about yourself or inner circle, you would not hesitate to talk about them also. In a sense, you’re a loose cannon, and you put others in harm’s way. It creates a fear that anything they say or do around you, including personal matters, can get shared with the masses, and when that happens things can get misconstrued, misrepresented or blown out of proportion. Absolutely no one wants to deal with unnecessary drama, and you’re the potential cause for it.
Most of the time, it’s not what you say or do that people remember; it’s how you make them feel. If you’re a person that airs dirty laundry, you are making others feel uncomfortable around you. They won’t trust you, nor will they respect you. Do you think they’ll tell you anything important? No chance. In their mind, they can be the central focus of your next “vent session”, so chances are they’re staying far away from you. If you want to share personal details of your life, choose those ears wisely. Pro tip: never, under any circumstances, air anything out on Facebook. You will look as weak and untrustworthy as they come.
“Nothing is more dangerous than a friend without discretion; even a prudent enemy is preferable.” – Jean de La Fontaine
– Your Big Bro