There is a lively discussion in our culture these days about the topics of transparency and privacy.  The scope of the discussion ranges from the most personal individual right of privacy to the most public and global levels.  While each of us may come down more strongly on one side or the other, the truth is that issues of privacy and openness are exceedingly complex.


Most women in their 60s, 70s, and 80s grew up with the idea that virtually everything that happened inside the family should be private. Whether the topic dealt with marital problems, alcoholism, sexual abuse, money problems or problems at work, it was forbidden for either the children or the adults to speak of these things outside of the home.


There are obviously both positive and negative consequences that occur as the result of a strong cultural bias toward privacy in the home.  Similarly, in the context of business and politics, privacy has long been the generally accepted norm. Whether the issue is a company’s finances, protection of patented products or the secretive actions of corporations or the government, privacy has almost always been valued over transparency.


Over time, our culture has shifted significantly in the direction of openness, though privacy continues to be highly valued.  Still, the trend toward societal norms of increasing openness and decreased privacy due to the internet and other social forces have altered choices around individual self-expression, relationship intimacy and family dynamics.  Globally and politically, we have come to expect and even demand more and more openness and transparency from partners, family members, businesses and governments than ever before.


On the personal level, bringing family dysfunctions, such as domestic violence, into the open helps interrupt and possibly prevent many behaviors that have victimized children and adults within the family. But is transparency about all family problems always a good thing?  Is organizational openness and political transparency always appropriate and beneficial?  Let’s talk about these issues as they pertain to our own lives.

  • How do you view the relative value of privacy vs. openness in your own life?
  • How do you define the difference between privacy and secrecy? Is secrecy the same as privacy? When is privacy, or even secrecy, appropriate?
  • What are the burning questions and concerns in your own personal life relating to openness and privacy?
  • How private or transparent are you in your dealings with your partner? your children? Your own parents? How do your expectations of openness from others differ based on your role in the relationship?
  • When do you feel privacy is more appropriate than openness and vice versa?