Recently my Toastmaster friend Jim gave a speech on Reticence and asked us the question, “what happened to it?” He did a great job of showing how it has apparently disappeared as he shared the story of the flight where the lady (a stranger) next to him told the story of her urinary tract infection.  Yuck. Or the other gentleman who asked him about the military’s “Don’t ask don’t tell” policy, and then proceeded to regale Jim with the stories of his son’s adventures as a young gay man. TMI – Too Much Information.

Back in the day, most of us would share our stories with a few friends over perhaps an adult beverage. And we might even share an embarrassing moment or two. And that would be it. Today we share all sorts of information through the process of managing our “Brand” on our social networks. So now we share those moments with thousands of people; in the case of celebrities perhaps millions of people.

Something in Jim’s speech resonates with me.  We have all endured the cell phone conversation between Sally and Kim about Aunt Martha’s kidney stone, while waiting for a flight or shopping for groceries. Some people just don’t have boundaries.

This idea got my brain gears smoking because of the apparent friction between reticence and intimacy.

Many of us are working to build our presence on line and in the process Trust; in what we say and how we think at least. Many hope to attract an audience and perhaps a few clients. And part of building trust according to authors Charles H. Green and Andrea P. Howe is intimacy. Having just finished their book the Trusted Advisor Fieldbook, I was struck with the power that intimacy has in building trust. In fact of all of the factors in the Trust equations it can be one of the most powerful.

Chris Brogan and Julien Smith in their book Trust Agents points out that intimacy is “…one of the most powerful influences on trust”.

So what is it? Intimacy and building trust online by sharing feelings and vulnerability or is it reticence. As I worked through that apparent conflict I came to the conclusion that they can go together. You can be intimate and still be reticent. It’s about boundaries and discretion. It is about being able to listen and not blab. It is about keeping the conversation relevant to the relationship, (not everyone needs to know about your kidney stone but they might be interested in the fear you felt when in a position similar to theirs). And perhaps this is the most interesting insight…it’s not all about you.

So remember as you are building content and sharing intimate stories on Facebook, there is value in that old value reticence.

It’s also about the value of belonging to a Toastmaster Group. Where else can you learn about reticence, listen to the poem, How the Grinch Stole Christmas and learn about the reasons why manned space flight is still a bargain in one evening?


  1. You hit the nail on the head — I totally agree. Thank you!

  2. Excellent post, John. Sharing your thoughts and values builds trust. Exposing unsavory or unnecessary details about every aspect of your life doesn’t build trust it causes one to question your discretion.

    I often post famous quotes from others, or possibly my own thoughts and am amazed at what others post in response. They literally “open the kimono” and show thoughts and ideas about themselves that I’d wished I’d never known.

    Discretion is key in sharing about yourself AND building trust.

  3. John, this posting is so appropriate and much needed! It seems that social media has stripped away all boundaries, and we are worse off for it. Hopefully the pendulum will swing back the other way. At any rate, thanks for your insights and reminder!

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