The Social Consequences of Oversharing
You’re leaving a hangout with a new friend feeling embarrassed. Once again, you spent the first 30 minutes oversharing, and now you regret it.
On a recent episode of the Friend Forward Podcast, we explored the topic of oversharing. What does it mean? Why do we do it? What are the social consequences, especially with new friends? Continue reading if this is something you’d like to understand a little bit better.
First of all, oversharing is relative.
At the end of the day, what is too much for one person might not be too much for another. Everyone's different, okay? Also, some of us think that we overshared because we have a hypersensitivity to how we may be perceived. So we think we overshared.
What is oversharing?
So let's just, let's just talk about oversharing from the lens that I have come to observe and understand the word, which is that oversharing is generally talking about a topic that someone might find to be too much (and many times, too much too soon).
Think of it as personal details that make another person uncomfortable.
This generally includes topics about:
and other subjects that the average, reasonable person might be put off by upon hearing.
Everyone's different, but generally speaking, this is what we're referring to when we speak about oversharing.
There are a couple things that impact how oversharing is even received.
The first is the newness of the relationship. The second is the subject itself.
When it comes to the newness of the relationship, you risk a person becoming turned off or growing skeptical as they wonder why you would choose to share something so personal with them, a total stranger. They may question your judgement.
It's also awkward because it appeals to the Law of Reciprocity. This universal concept means when we get something, we want to give something back to balance the scales. So if you share something, others might feel an obligation to share something back. But if you shared on a level that I'm not comfortable with, then I might struggle with knowing how to respond because I don't want to give in the same way.
Another factor that impacts how people receive your oversharing is the subject itself. You can have a friend that you are relatively comfortable with, but of her sensitivities or what her culture has determined as inappropriate, she's always going perceive something you say about a certain topic as being too much because it's sensitive and personal and private to her.
Why do we overshare?
There are five reasons that we tend to overshare, and we will unpack three here. The first is because we are trying to rush the bonding process. The second reason we overshare is because we want to test new friends. Another reasons we tend to overshare is because we genuinely believe we're being vulnerable. We will unpack of these issues in the blog below.
Two additional reasons we overshare include anxiety and a desire for sympathy. We encourage you to work with a mental health provider if these issues apply to you, as they may be better qualified to help you through it.
Reason #1. You overshare because you want to manufacture closeness.
Recently I was working with a beautiful, very passionate young woman last week and our session became pretty emotional very quickly, which by now I'm used to. She was desperate for connection, but was coming to me because she believed that there was something she was doing that was putting people off. Many of her interactions were not going to the next level. She was wondering, Why can I not keep momentum in these relationships?
After posing a series of thought-provoking questions, I realized what the issue was:
In her initial conversations with new friends, she's bringing up heavy mental health issues. I am not equipped to help her with these issues as a coach, but on the subject of identifying barriers to connection with others, I am equipped to craft strategies. So this is where we focused on discussion.
When I asked her what the goal was, she told me:
"Because I want to be close and I wanna show them that they can trust me. Maybe if I put my stuff on the table, then it'll help us to start making a connection."
You cannot expedite the friend-making process. If you are lonely, you might have a tendency to try to fast-forward the process, but that means you're skipping over all the necessary steps toward genuine platonic intimacy.
A relationship is built through a series of micro-self-disclosures over time, and multiple moments where a person demonstrates their ability to trust and be trusted. This is something that cannot be rushed by dumping personal details in the first conversation.
Now let me do some validating.
There are several research studies that confirm what you probably intuitively know to be true. That self-disclosure is something that women often participate in with their friends more than men do with theirs. And because of that, women's friendships do tend to be more intimate. It's nice sometimes to see what the research says and how it supports what we already suspect to be true. And I wonder if it's because sharing has that effect that we use it to speedily achieve closeness, but you will only achieve some thin veil of closeness because it has not been laid on a form, uh, a firm foundation, real trust and connection.
Reason #2. We overshare because we want to test new friends.
Sometimes we overshare because we're (consciously or subconsciously) leaning into the mantra of, "If they can't take me at my worst, they don't deserve me at my best."
But when you do this during the first interaction, you're counting on relative strangers to endure the burdens of your self-disclosure without any history, background, or context of who you are. Again, I am not here to qualify anyone's friendships are make blanket statements, but I encourage you to look at how the approach of "testing" new friends has worked out for you in the long-term, and adjust your strategy accordingly.
Reason #3. We overshare because we think that it's being vulnerable.
Vulnerability is taking a risk of being rejected.
But if you are easily slipping into sharing big personal details, then you don't sense a risk. You are comfortable. For some, you actually enjoy it. This is not vulnerability.
But when you are sharing courageously in spite of the risk of being judged, rejected, or misunderstood, you've taken a brave leap toward searching for authentic and meaningful connection.
Rethink your relationship with vulnerability. And work to understand that it's not necessarily synonymous with "telling all of my business". Instead, it refers to acts like:
-telling someone you care about them
-telling a new friend you enjoy her company and want to get together again
-telling a friend you'd like her to initiate more outings
-telling someone a fear or desire they may not understand or appreciate
If this is a subject that you'd like to learn more about, then watch my interview with New York Times Bestselling author of the book "Platonic", Dr. Marisa G. Franco.
If you have a tendency to give a lot too soon, I want you to ask yourself why you do that, and then see if there's an alternative way to achieve that thing you're looking for that you have not yet identified.
What are you trying to accomplish when you do that? Are you trying to get connection? Are you trying to test your friends? Do you have an underdeveloped understanding of what vulnerability really is?
Now what might be a healthier way to achieve what you're looking for?
We encourage you to reflect on these tendencies, objectives, and behaviors. And you're like to share the ways in which this content resonated with you, contact us or book a one-on-one friendship coaching sessions with resident friendship coach, Danielle Bayard Jackson.