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Knowing How Much Personal Information To Reveal When Getting To Know Someone

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Throughout our lives, we’re continually developing new relationships with our fellow human beings. Some might even argue that the relationships we develop with those around us are, at the end of the day, what life is all about.

New relationships, however, can be more than a little tricky to negotiate.

Whether you’re forming and nurturing a relationship with a new lover, a new friend, or even a new colleague or business partner, it can be difficult to know what’s appropriate to reveal about yourself when you’re getting to know one another.

What do they really need to know, and what counts as over-sharing? When do you cross the line to sharing too much information?

Although you can face similar issues in all of these three types of relationships, the kind of information that the person needs to know will vary depending on the nature of the relationship between you.

Let’s look at each type of relationship in turn, starting with what I’m sure you’ll all agree is the trickiest to negotiate, romance.

New Romantic Relationships

The world of love is never simple, and we all bring baggage to new relationships.

The question is, however, which pieces of information about yourself you can afford to keep close to your chest for a while, and which need to be taken out and laid firmly on the table early on.

You should tell them straight away if…

1. You’ve Got Kids

Whilst you might not always want to feel like just a mother or a father, when it comes to dating, this isn’t the kind of baggage that you can afford to ‘forget’ to mention, unless you’re planning on keeping things super casual.

You don’t want anyone coming into your life or the lives of your kids if they aren’t enthusiastic about the idea.

What’s more, you don’t want to allow yourself to get attached to someone only to find that they run a mile when you finally tell them about your little darlings.

Even if you don’t have contact with your children, they’re still a big part of your life and something any potential romantic partner should know about ASAP.

2. You’re Divorced

This is another one you need to be up front about.

You don’t have to give them a full play-by-play account of all the boyfriends and/or girlfriends you’ve had (and I would, in fact, strongly advise against this!), but if you’ve been married, it’s not something you should be hiding, no matter what the circumstances. 

Whilst it is the case less and less these days, some people, for religious reasons or for any other reason, might not feel comfortable dating a divorcee.

It’s best that you put your cards on the table from the very beginning so that no one gets any unpleasant surprises.

It’s not just for their benefit. You don’t want to develop feelings for them if there’s a chance they might bow out when you decide the time is right to tell them you’ve been married, or they find out some other way.

3. You Have Strong Religious Beliefs

If you’re religious to the extent that it would affect your choice of partner if they didn’t share the same beliefs, and it would determine the way you’d like to bring up any hypothetical future children, then there’s no point messing around.

Chances are you’d ideally like to date someone with similar beliefs to you, so it’s best to find out early on.

You can wait a while, but before things get serious you should also let them know…

1. What Your Vision For The Future Looks Like

You should get the impression that you’re vaguely on the same page from the beginning, but before you make any real commitment, you should let the other person know if you are, for example, really against the idea of having kids or don’t believe in marriage.

Whilst people can change their minds about these things, you need to let your partner know what your current thoughts on these pretty weighty subjects are.

No one should be in a relationship with someone under false pretenses or in the hope that they’ll change their mind about these fundamental things down the line.

2. About Anything A Little Questionable In Your Past

You should be able to be entirely honest with your romantic partner and not receive any judgment in return.

They don’t necessarily need to know about the time you got smacked on the wrist for stealing a chocolate bar when you were ten, but if there’s anything that could potentially come back to haunt you in the future, it’s best that they know now.

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New Friendships

Friendships can be some of the longest relationships in our lives, and our best friends can sometimes be the only constant when other parts of our lives blow up in our faces.

Luckily though, with friendships, there’s not half as much pressure and there’s less commitment involved in your relationships than with romantic ones.

You don’t need to feel duty bound to reveal any facts about yourself that might be slightly uncomfortable when you first meet.

You can still find common ground to build a friendship upon even if you do have completely opposing political or religious beliefs, although once you’ve figured out that there are some slightly contentious subjects, it might be best to agree to avoid discussing them for the sake of harmony.

With a new friendship, you can let conversation flow naturally. Everything they need to know about you will come out eventually, and if they can’t handle something about you, then you were never destined to be good friends.

New Working Relationships  

The average human will spend at least 12 years of an 80 year life at work, and that number seems set to grow as retirement ages are continually being pushed up.

That means you probably spend far longer in the company of the people you work with than you’ve ever realized.

Never underestimate, then, the importance of cultivating good working relationships with your colleagues. 

Here are a couple of guidelines to follow:

1. Honesty Is Always The Best Policy

In any working relationship, you need to be upfront about your experience and your abilities. After all, if someone is relying on you, you need to be able to pull through and come good on your promises.

We are, however, talking honesty and not modesty. Underestimating your talents and failing to blow your own horn when you could step up to the plate isn’t a good way to build trust with your colleagues.

Similarly, if you don’t know how to do something, you should always, always ask. 

If you’re entering into a business partnership, full disclosure about anything that could have an impact on you and your new partner is extremely important from the word go, for the sake of your business and for your benefit too.

2. But Keep It Professional (At Least At First)

Yes, you should be honest with those you work with, but that doesn’t extend beyond information that’s relevant to your professional life.

Your colleagues don’t need to hear about the ups and downs of your love life, and try not to over-share!

That is, of course, unless and until you feel the line between co-worker and friend blurring to the extent that you and they feel comfortable discussing more personal matters.

Even then, you might wish to hold back a little in case the friendship sours and the information you divulged to them gets out and makes your working situation awkward.

Building new relationships, whatever kind of relationship they may be, is one of the great joys in life.

Overall, the key is just to be yourself and always be as honest as possible. That way, you give a new relationship the best chance of thriving and developing authentically.

About The Author

Katie is a writer and translator with a focus on travel, self-care and sustainability. She's based between a cave house in Granada, Spain, and the coast of beautiful Cornwall, England. She spends her free time hiking, exploring, eating vegan tapas and volunteering for a local dog shelter.