We must strike a delicate balance between openness and privacy in our life. We need input and support of others, and there is no way to get that without opening up. But we must also stay in control of our own life, and take responsibility for our own dreams, thoughts, words and deeds. To that end we need to limit the influence of the outside world on ourselves. In many instances we must cut ourselves loose from the influence of distinct persons or society as a whole. This means often to create a healthy distance, maybe for a limited time or for good. But in some cases, we must also avoid relationships up to the point where we try to become invisible to the other side.
A proper balance between openness and privacy empower us to maintain our capability to make sound judgements. This prevents us from follies like clogging our home with toilet paper, just by following what everyone else is doing.
Photo by Eryk on Unsplash
Why should we open up? Simply said, life is there for us as an opportunity to make experiences, to share our insights with others and to learn from others. The one who doesn’t open himself up in any way forgoes the huge opportunity life presents to our soul. This means of course, not opening yourself at all is another word for completely rejecting life.
Passive and Active Openness
If you think about it, you find two district aspects of openness:
- You use your life to explore the world and human life, to research, to test, to categorise and finally to understand the world and life itself.
- And next, you make yourself visible and approachable. This way, you can connect to others. Connecting extend your reach dramatically, because you can leverage the insights of others and build on past efforts.
Getting Access to the Right Information
So, combining both modes of openness gives you access to a huge amount of information. More importantly, it allows us also to validate information. You can compare notes with some friends and even adversaries to find some possible errors in your thinking and decide, where to look further.
Seeing the World from Different Angles
Besides of finding errors and room for improvement, sharing notes allows you also to develop a more multidimensional view of the world. Everyone sees reality from a slightly different angle. If you can integrate several perspectives, you can build a sophisticated understanding of your world. Such sophistication allows you of course to act with great precision and follow your path with great success.
Openness and Trust
Obviously, you can only integrate other people’s perspectives into your world view, if you can trust those people. It would be a great folly to open yourself up indiscriminately to everyone. Therefore, we must choose the people, to whom we offer a space in our life. This need leads us directly to the antidote of openness, namely privacy.
The word privacy describes a sanctuary, where we can withdraw and prevent others from accessing and influencing us. Openness depends directly on this kind of privacy.
Governments are using the word privacy in the context of the new regulations of internet services in a completely different way. Redefining the concept of privacy allows them to renege on our right to limit government influence on our life and to maintain a sphere of privacy outside their scope. And the good thing for them: they can do so and only a small number of people realises it.
The right for privacy does not only mean, that we have a right to limit the information the powers that be – governments, Google, Facebook, banks – may collect about us. It means that we have a right to build a space, where we can cut them all completely off, at least for a limited time.
Limiting the Influence of Others
We need to limit the impact others have on our life, although we also need to allow some influence. Choosing the ideas and people, to whom we grant a space in our life, belongs to the most consequential decisions we have to make in life. We start early on to make such decisions, even before we have the slightest idea, what we are doing there. Therefore, and because we grow and people around us keep also changing, we must retain a sanctuary of privacy to review those decisions continuously.
Retaining Responsibility for Our Own Life
If we would allow indiscriminately all people to impact our life as they would like, we would end up like a leave in a tornado. Or even more accurately, we would end up like a grain in a mill. So, we must limit the impact others can have on our life, if we have only the slightest intention to make it truly our own life.
Protecting Our Energy
We need to limit access to our own lives not only because of people with possibly bad or selfish intentions. We need to manage our energy, focus it at the right time and to solve the right problems. If we allow everybody to turn our attention away from our task and transform it into negative energy like anger and fear, we will never make it. And worse, we will also become a source of negative energy, poisoning the life of others.
Privacy Does Not Mean Hiding Shortcomings
Some people tried to change the meaning of the word privacy into a synonym to make information unavailable. The so-called privacy laws use the term in this direction, but this is a hidden power grab by governments. They claim the right of privacy would only be the right to hide some information from public. By redefining privacy this way, those governments eliminate all restrictions of the government to intervene in people’s personal affairs. This is especially true in the European Union. The small print of the new data protection regulations claims even the right for governments to exclude themselves from those already weakened privacy rules.
So, to be clear: Privacy does not mean hiding own mistakes and shortcomings from yourself and the public. Instead, it means the right to a sanctuary. It means to live your life without outside interference, with some few well-defined exemptions. Those exemptions must be defined by law and confirmed in every single instance by an independent court.
In its deepest sense, privacy means the right to be whoever you want to be, as long as it does not hurt others. If such privacy would be guaranteed in practice, we wouldn’t be scared about leaked information.
And we need that privacy urgently as an anchor point, if we want to reach our potential. Without it, we are always in danger to become a leave in the wind.
Privacy and Openness – A Give and Take
If we draw privacy and openness together, we come to the following conclusion:
- We need openness to connect to other people and to get food for thought.
- We need privacy to connect to our soul, to decide, what kind of person we want to be and which life we want to live.
- In the next step, we need openness again to make this life real.
Respecting Other People’s Privacy
We know that we need privacy to live as a decent person. On the other hand, we want to connect with decent, strong and authentic people.
Therefore, truly established and wealthy families have in common, that they teach their children how and when to open themselves, and how and when to maintain their privacy.
Spying on others forbids itself, if we want to build good relationships. A spy collects information secretly to make you vulnerable. His goal is manipulating and nudging you into behaviours he desires.
His spying excludes strong and authentic people from his network. This makes spying a self-defeating and very destructive activity.
Privacy and Openness in a Commercial Setting
Up to now, I have been talking about privacy and openness in a personal setting, in relationships from one person to another person. But in commercial relationships those two concepts are as important.
I define here commercial relationships as relationships which include organisations. Corporations do not have ears and eyes, and it is hard for them to read body language.
If organisations try to talk to us, they use ad agencies and employ people to do so.
But, if they want to build sound relationships, organisations need also to listen. They do this in many cases by tracking the behaviour of their customers, prospects, employees, suppliers and competitors.
The main method to listen to customers and prospects is observing their behaviour. A good shopkeeper knew always, how often and at what times a customer would come. He had also a good idea, what each customer might buy. Of course, he took note, whenever one of his customers changed his behaviour, coming less frequently or buying other things.
The merchant talked also with his customers to know, what is on their mind, where else they bought, and why. Of course, he talked with his peers to compare notes, too.
In modern online sales environments, we do the same. Online businesses track customers and prospects whenever they enter one of their websites. Publishers observe, which pages prospects view, which videos they watch, which audios they listen to and where they stop, etc.
Merchants send also email. And, you guess it: they observe, which email you open, and which link you follow. This tracking is necessary, if an organisation wants to build an audience.
Without listening, there is no way to provide relevant information and services. Therefore, an organisation must know their customers to help them solving their problems and add value to their lives.
Tracking is the way of businesses to listen to you. And I am quite sure, that you wouldn’t maintain a relationship with a business which ignores what you tell them. You would try to block any communication from such businesses and call them spammer. And, you would be right to do so.
Fairness and Transparency
Of course, fairness and transparency are a condition necessary for any relationship. In a relationship between a single person and an often powerful organisation, they are even more important.
Whenever an organisation tries to push you around and nudges you to do this or that, end that relationship immediately! It is not the task of anyone to make choices for you. Businesses are there to support your decision making and to help you carrying your decisions out.