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Have you ever met someone for the first time and felt so comfortable with them that you spilled all your business to them? The good. The bad. The ugly. Just everything?
Rather than giving a short reply when asked how you are doing, you go on a long rant about the issues you’re experiencing with your health and life in general…in the frozen food section of the local supermarket.
Have you ever felt like you revealed too much personal information during a particularly soul-baring conversation with a colleague from work? Now you’re getting a sense that everyone in the office knows your business?
At one time or another, we’ve all had a bout of verbal diarrhea, where words burst out of our mouths against our better judgment. Although quite embarrassing, an incident here or there is usually not a cause for concern.
But when you notice people cut you off during conversations or find an excuse to leave discussions shortly after you join, you might wonder if you have a problem with spilling your business (or even the business of others) to people who don’t want to hear it.
Maybe you’ve realized that your business is commonly at the heart of the rumor mill. Your secrets or sensitive information are always making the rounds in your office or friend group. When you sit down to reflect and consider how everyone knows everything about you, it would appear that the information often comes directly from the horse’s mouth…you.
Have you been in situations where you gave people, not even particularly close friends, too much information about yourself? Do you struggle with disclosing personal and sensitive information to people who were not ready to hear it or had not yet proven they are trustworthy?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, you no doubt also noticed that this behavior has led others to either pull away from you or spread your business to anyone else who cares to listen.
While you could blame your loose-lipped confidants for blabbing. The fault really lies with you for failing to understand that not everyone needs to know your business.
Understanding that you don’t have to tell everyone everything is a hard lesson that is usually taught through uncomfortable or embarrassing situations.
If getting dragged into drama or becoming the subject of the rumor mill—because of your inability to stop telling people your business—have you wondering what to do, keep reading to find out why you do it, the dangers of doing it, and how to stop.
Why do you tell everyone your business?
There are many possible reasons why you tell everyone your business. Some explanations include:
You come from a family that overshares.
You grew up in a family that shares everything. Some might even say you share too much information. But that’s how you’ve always been. You know about your parents’ sex life and they know about yours. Your siblings know everything that’s going on in your relationship and you know about their marital challenges.
So, you take this mindset with you into other relationships, thinking this amount of disclosure is normal. To be clear…it is not.
It’s a reaction to feeling isolated.
Do you have few close friends? Are you often to be found alone? Are there other reasons why you don’t get to see or speak to other people that often?
Your propensity to overshare could be a reaction to your feelings of isolation and loneliness.
You’re trying to force intimacy in a relationship quickly.
The awkwardness of a budding relationship, whether romantic or platonic, can be, well…uncomfortable. So, you try to rush through the initial getting-to-know-you phase and into a place of comfort, compatibility, and intimacy.
To help hurry things along, you do an information dump of your innermost secrets and thoughts on an unsuspecting person.
You have trauma you haven’t dealt with.
You have unresolved trauma that you haven’t dealt with. While you may think you’ve handled it, the trauma is so close to the surface that it comes pouring out at any opportunity.
It’s like a dam has fallen apart and the floodgates of memories and emotions come pouring through on the person unlucky enough to witness it.
You’re always on social media where people tend to overshare.
If something interesting happens, but you don’t post it on social media…did it really happen?
You curate everything happening in your life for The Gram. Everyone on social media looks like their lives are a blast. What’s wrong with you showing that yours is too?
There is no meal you can enjoy without snapping a picture for your connections or followers, you update your location on social media whenever you go out, and you constantly update your relationship status to keep “everyone” in the loop.
You’re looking for attention.
You crave attention. Who doesn’t like when the focus is on them? Heck, even introverts sometimes want to be the center of attention, although rarely.
As a result, you hog conversations and tell personal stories intended to keep people hanging on your every word or at least shock them long enough to give you the attention fix you desire.
Common myths about oversharing.
It’s becoming increasingly acceptable to share personal or private information with a wider audience. In an effort to connect with others, seek validation, gain acceptance, or whatever the reason might be, people are revealing sensitive information about their lives with virtual strangers on social media.
To a large extent, this has watered down people’s understanding of what is appropriate to share with friends, colleagues, acquaintances, or a wider faceless audience.
Below are common myths about oversharing that some of us struggle with today in an age where nothing is considered too private to share on social media.
Authenticity vs. oversharing.
According to Psychology Today, you are authentic when your deeper values and beliefs (i.e., your “true self”) align with your actions. As an authentic person, you accept who you are and what you do well. You aren’t afraid to reveal who you truly are to the world.
Oversharing is about dumping your thoughts, trauma, or challenges on someone without their permission. You do not consider the depth of your relationship with the other person or their comfort level with hearing your personal information. It’s almost like you’re exposing yourself to them and forcing them to look at you.
You can be authentic without sharing private and unnecessary information about yourself. People don’t need to know about your business for you to live authentically.
Vulnerability vs. oversharing.
Brené Brown, a research professor at the University of Houston and visiting professor at the University of Texas, has spent two decades studying courage, vulnerability, shame, and empathy. She defines vulnerability as “uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure.”
She also says that:
“Vulnerability is based on mutuality and requires boundaries and trust. It’s not oversharing, it’s not purging, it’s not indiscriminate disclosure, and it’s not celebrity-style social media information dumps. Vulnerability is about sharing our feelings and our experiences with people who have earned the right to hear them.”
Vulnerability is something that brings people closer together through being open emotionally. It leaves them feeling more connected.
Oversharing is an uncomfortable and unsatisfying experience that can lead to reputational damage. The oversharing person is left feeling exposed, while the person being dumped upon is confused as to why they’re receiving all this information, helpless to give the desired support, and burdened with expectations they didn’t ask for.
According to Brené Brown, “oversharing is not vulnerability. In fact, it often results in disconnection, distrust, and disengagement.”
The dangers of oversharing.
If you are prone to oversharing, you might think the only danger involved is everyone eventually knowing your business. Unfortunately, there’s a serious side to telling everyone everything that we don’t often consider.
Below are some examples of the dangers of oversharing:
- Posting photos from the trip you are currently on could let criminals in your neighborhood know that you’re out of town and your house is unoccupied.
- Pictures taken inside your home may accidentally reveal valuable items like art, jewelry, electronics, or desirable collections to people who would want to steal them.
- Photos or information about family members can disclose their identities and locations. It can make them criminal targets.
- Information about your life or past can be used to guess your password or the answers to security questions.
- Sharing information such as your address, phone number, birthday and other personal details can put you at a greater risk of identity theft, stalking, and harassment.
- Many employers now run social media checks on applicants. No company wants to hire an employee whose online profile will tarnish the brand. Not to mention, someone who is constantly putting personal information online will most likely do the same with colleagues and private company business.
There are many negative consequences of putting all your business on social media or talking indiscriminately to people.
In a 2016 incident, a well-known reality star was the victim of an armed robbery in France. The criminals used her social media information to track her movements and eventually her whereabouts.
Paris police chief Christian Sainte, who led the investigation, initially knew nothing about the star. But after a quick google search of her name, he said to himself, “Now, I know almost everything about her.”
Sadly, so did the thieves.
Not everyone needs to know your business. By making your information accessible to all and sundry, you place yourself in a lot of danger.
How to stop telling people your business.
If you’ve gotten used to telling your business to everyone, it might be a bit of a switch to suddenly stop doing so now. Naturally, you may know that you don’t have to tell everyone everything. But with the way social media has blurred the lines of privacy, vulnerability, and authenticity, it can be difficult to know what to share, what not to share, and when.
Below are several tips you can use to help you better safeguard your business.
1. Get off social media.
Get off social media. At least for now. Stop posting. Stop viewing. Try to reconnect with your friends and family in real-time.
A short break from social media can open your eyes to how toxic the platforms can sometimes be. It will also help you stop making personal information available to anyone who stumbles across your profile.
But before you take your break, you may want to go over your profiles with a fine-tooth comb to scrub clean all the potentially damaging or identifying information that may be there.
While some people believe that whatever is posted on social media can never truly be deleted, it’s still better to be safe than sorry by removing any damaging info.
While you’re there, set your profiles to private as well.
2. Pause before hitting “send.”
If you are not quite ready yet to dump social media altogether, then consider pausing before you hit “send.”
When you want to post a picture or the latest update on your life, let it wait at least 24 hours in the draft section before you post it. This will give you time to rethink whether it’s beneficial for you to post or not.
If you’re on vacation, out to dinner, or engaged in some activity, giving yourself a break before posting allows you to at least leave the location before inviting everyone into your business.
If you wait for the designated time and you’re still not sure if you should post or not, ask a friend for their opinion on it.
Make sure it’s a friend who understands what you’re trying to do or someone who is not a fan of posting personal issues on social media.
3. Deal with underlying trauma.
If your trauma keeps seeping out onto unsuspecting people, you need to address it and deal with it. As much as others may empathize with or feel sorry for you, they can’t help you find a lasting solution to your trauma. They don’t have the knowledge or skills to help you.
The only thing you’re succeeding in doing is making them feel uncomfortable and pushing them away.
Find a therapist or a support group to help you deal with the trauma you are struggling with. A licensed therapist will not disclose your information and will teach you skills to cope with your challenges.
Dumping your trauma on random people will only end up trivializing what you went through by turning it into a joke, as it makes its way through the rumor mill.
You deserve better than that.
Get the help you need.
BetterHelp.com is a website where you can connect with a therapist via phone, video, or instant message.
Too many people try to muddle through and do their best to overcome issues that they never really get to grips with. If it’s at all possible in your circumstances, therapy is 100% the best way forward.
Click here if you’d like to learn more about the service BetterHelp.com provide and the process of getting started.
4. Pay attention to social cues.
Conversations aren’t all about you. Pay attention to social cues.
Is the person you’re talking to looking away? Do they seem like they’re paying attention to what you’re saying? Have you been talking for a really long time? Are they angled toward you and openly facing you? Or do they look like they’re trying to make a quick getaway?
Read the other person’s body language.
Don’t continue talking just because they’re too polite to change the conversation. Don’t hold them hostage because they don’t want to seem rude by simply walking away.
They are being considerate of you, so return the favor.
Stop talking and ask a question.
If you realize that you’ve overshared, apologize and change the subject.
5. Question your motives for sharing private information.
Before you share a piece of sensitive information about yourself, question your motives for doing so.
Are you trying to connect with the other person on a deeper level? Or are you just trying to garner their sympathy?
Is this information appropriate for the current stage of your relationship? Or are you trying to force intimacy and throw your relationship into warp speed?
Are you sharing an experience you went through so others can learn from your mistakes? Or are you looking for admiration or attention on the sly?
Don’t lie to yourself about your motivations. Because even if it’s possible for you to deceive yourself, you probably won’t fool your unwitting audience.
If your motivations for sharing are self-centered and focused solely on your wants and your needs, keep your comments to yourself.
Instead, find a journal and unload there. It won’t judge you, pull away, or reveal your secrets to anyone.
6. Practice “The Front Page Rule.”
“The Front Page Rule” is a good technique to keep in mind if you struggle with keeping your business private. Simply put, you never reveal anything you wouldn’t want to show up on the front page of the newspaper the very next day…or ever.
This rule is especially applicable when you’re in the beginning stages of a romantic or platonic relationship. But you can also apply it to relationships with people who haven’t proven that they are trustworthy.
So, if you don’t want the details of your credit card debt to be on the front page of tomorrow’s newspaper, then don’t tell anyone about it.
If you’re having challenges in the bedroom with your partner but wouldn’t want all the residents in your neighborhood to read about it in the morning newspaper over coffee, don’t share that information with other people.
7. Practice mindful communication.
How many times has someone been talking to you and before they completed their thought, you already knew where they were going and had drafted a response in your head? This happens to many of us.
The challenge with this style of communication is that while you’re drafting a response, you’re not actually listening to what they’re saying. You’ve assumed you know what they’re going to say and crafted a reply to that.
You’re not paying attention to what they’re actually saying.
Mindful communication requires you to listen to the person who is speaking without jumping to conclusions or judgment. According to Jon Kabat-Zinn, professor of medicine emeritus at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, in mindful communication, you are “paying attention in a particular way, on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally.”
Instead, you listen with curiosity.
Don’t respond immediately. Rather, having let go of distractions and your physical or emotional reactions to what people are saying, take time to think about your response. Be conscious of the words you choose to speak.
Pay attention to how the other person reacts to what you’re saying by noticing their non-verbal cues.
When you are in a conversation with someone, be fully engaged in the discussion.
Put your phone away, maintain eye contact, and give them your undivided attention.
Lastly, as much as possible, try to understand where they are coming from.
8. Practice active listening.
If you are truly engaged in a conversation and have practiced your listening skills, the compulsion to unburden yourself onto the other person won’t creep up.
Active listening requires you to not just hear the words the other person is saying, but the message behind the words. Or how they’re saying it.
Here are five tips you can use to become a better active listener:
- Pay attention to what the other person is saying. Put down your phone, look at the person speaking, and listen to what they are saying and how they are saying. Also note their body language.
- Let the person speaking know that you’re listening by nodding and making small verbal comments like “hmm,” or “uh huh,” or “yes.” Use your posture to show the person who’s speaking that you’re engaged in the conversation—turn toward the speaker, perhaps lean in.
- Provide feedback by asking clarifying questions or rephrasing what was said to ensure you’re both on the same page—”So, what you’re saying is…” or “…is that what you mean?”
- Don’t interrupt. Keep your questions until after the other person has finished their point.
- When you respond, do so in a way that is respectful and considerate of where you think the other person is coming from.
9. Manage your stress levels.
According to a study titled Daily Stress and Self-Control by Crystal L. Park et al., daily stressors and self-control depletion are related. The research revealed that stressful events often precede drops in self-control and drops in self-control precede stressful events.
It’s a vicious downward spiral.
If you have a hard time with self-control or holding yourself back from spilling the beans on your personal business, it could be the result of a high stress level.
Are you under a lot of stress or pressure right now? Find a way to rest or relax so you can escape this spiral.
You might consider taking a nap just to give your brain a break from the downward cycle and a jolt of rest.
10. Give yourself a time limit.
Give yourself a time limit for talking. If you’re on a date and you want to launch into a “really interesting” story about yourself, give yourself the time it takes for your date to eat a few bites of food or have a sip of wine (or their beverage of choice) to wrap up the story.
Then ask them a question. This will stop you from droning on and on and hogging the conversation. A time limit like this will also help remind you that the focus of the discussion is not you. It’s the other person.
11. Get tested for ADHD or other psychological issues.
Are you struggling with disclosing inappropriate amounts of information or details about your life? Is sitting quietly an oddly difficult challenge for you? Are you uncomfortable with silence and feel compelled to fill it with chatter?
At times, oversharing is a symptom of a deeper psychological issue, like ADHD or an anxiety disorder.
If you feel unable to control your desire to talk or cope with silence, you may want to pursue getting tested by a licensed mental health professional to see if underlying psychological issues are driving your behavior.
12. Work on your social skills.
Socialization doesn’t come easy for many of us. We just don’t have the gift of naturally making friends or drawing others to us.
Especially as adults, making friends can be tricky. Someone may misconstrue your innocent invitation for a cup of coffee or a beer. You might misinterpret someone’s interest in you.
There are a lot of moving parts when it comes to socializing. The only way to overcome this challenge is to work on your social skills. Before you go out for an office function, research appropriate topics for small talk. Prepare some that seem interesting to you.
If you’re going out on a date, try to find out some of their interests ahead of time. Do some light research on their interests so you can ask relevant questions.
If you’re an introvert, make friends with someone who is an extrovert. When you go out with your extroverted friend, you can observe how he/she easily connects with other people. Then adapt those methods to suit your personality and style.
13. Get comfortable with silence.
There is nothing wrong with sitting in silence.
You don’t have to tell everyone everything in a bid to fill the silence in a conversation. It’s not your job to fill the silence.
Remember, a conversation is a two-way street. So, sit tight and let the other person say something.
If you absolutely cannot handle sitting in silence for another second, pull out a couple of those small talk topics you prepared beforehand, such as the weather.
In closing: Not everyone needs to know.
You don’t have to be open with everyone. There should be aspects of yourself that you keep private—whether it’s your deep thoughts, romantic relationship, or even hopes/goals for the future.
By granting anyone access to all of you, you’re giving them room to give you unwanted advice or even mock what you are experiencing.
Only reveal your vulnerable self to people who have proven to be loyal and trustworthy.
It is a good idea to seek professional help from one of the therapists at BetterHelp.com as professional therapy can be highly effective in helping you to stop telling people your business.
You may also like:
- How To Stop Oversharing: 6 Tips That Actually Work!
- How To Stop Explaining Yourself To Others: 8 No Nonsense Tips