Sunday, 24 January 2016

Spilling it out

I still contend that there's no such thing as over-sharing. Why not just spill it all out? What is there about our lives that needs to be kept from other people? Maybe if you're a serial bank robber, you might want to hide it, but otherwise, the more we tell others, the more they'll understand us, which surely is all to the good?

I'm happy to share virtually anything, however personal or weird or illegal or seedy. There's nothing I'm ashamed of, nothing I regret, nothing that makes me cringe. All I keep to myself are things that might jeopardise my job, or embarrass Jenny, or be totally misunderstood, or get a police officer ringing my doorbell. Other than that, why bottle it all up?

Of course what is "over-sharing" to one person is just routine chat to another. While one person might be fascinated by the details of my sex life or medical problems, someone else might be utterly repulsed and head for the door. There's no way of predicting people's sharing threshold, so if I don't know them, I'll feel my way quite cautiously until I get some helpful signals.

Obviously I don't just blurt out anything and everything to every passing stranger. If someone looks like the shy and reserved type, I'll stick to the usual small talk and harmless banter. If they look as if they want something deeper and more honest, I'll open up a bit and see how it goes. I'm not going to foist of load of possibly shocking revelations on someone unprepared for them.

Contrary-wise, I'm very happy for other people to be as open as they like about their inner lives. It's interesting and revealing and brings us closer. We may be facing the same personal problems. They may be dying to get something off their chest. They may be baffled by something I can make sense of. Where's the benefit in forever hiding yourself behind a mask of polite, platitudinous nonsense?

I'm not a sphinx. I'll give it to you straight.

25 comments:

A Heron's View said...

I concur with you Nick up to a point.
I had a friend X who would visit us once a week and share his troubles and look for guidance sometimes and at other times just an ear.
This went on for several years and then a life long friend of mine died and I started to share this with X and he didn't want to know.

I think there are times when some people need a to be directed to a professional counsellor, rather than just dump on their friends.

Nick said...

Heron: It's pretty mean that your friend poured out his troubles to you over a long period and then when you expected him to reciprocate he gave you the brush-off.

You're right that sometimes people need a professional counsellor, especially if their problems are too deep and too tangled to be understood by a lay person.

Bijoux said...

Personally, I feel as though we live in a culture of TMI. I am tired of it. What I find interesting is the motive behind over sharing. Is the person needy or do they enjoy the shock value and reaction of the listener?

Jacqueline @ HOME said...

You are quite right of course Nick but, we were brought up to be a bit cautious about who we tell what too and it's very hard to change our ways. We are what we are and I guess that I will go on being the same { although, the older I get, the better I am at telling things about myself !! } XXXX

Rachel said...

I agree with Heron, and have had a very similar experience as he describes and felt extremely let down. This particular person was having professional counselling when we met at art college. She did not tell me at that time that she was having counselling. She began off-loading to me everyday and then after a few months she told me about her counsellor and how she had been able to give it up since meeting me and how grateful to me she was for listening. Thank you and good bye. After that she rarely had time to talk to me and I felt I had been used. It effected me so much that I am reluctant to lend people too much of an ear these days

Suburbia said...

Very similar to you Nick - however people have to ask me and I find there are so many that are bound up with their own lives and never ask - which is sad perhaps?

Rummuser said...

Yes, I have noticed that about you in your blog posts. I suppose that you would have also concluded that I too am an open book and may not be as prolific as you on the subject of me but when the occasion arises, I don't hide anything relevant to the subject.

Nick said...

Bijoux: I don't know about the whole culture. Certainly the media give us too-much-information non-stop, in their desperate drive for more readers/viewers. I guess it's both the motives you suggest and more. Also simple insensitivity to what the other person might not want to hear and what they can cope with.

Jacqueline: Yes, I think age has something to do with it. I was brought up at a time when people were incredibly reticent about anything personal. But I get the impression younger people are much more blasé about spilling it all out.

Nick said...

Rachel: That was shockingly exploitative and I'm not surprised you're now reluctant to listen too readily to other people's troubles. What a cheek, using you as a cheap substitute for a professional counsellor.

Suburbia: People usually have to ask me too, because I'm quite reluctant to talk about myself, I prefer listening to others. But as I said before, once I get going I have to be careful not to gush everything out. A sort of nervous verbal diarrhoea. As you say, many people are bound up with their own lives and never think of sounding other people out.

Nick said...

Ramana: I think that's true that you're very much an open book. You've been very frank about your feelings towards your father for example. "I may not be as prolific as you on the subject of me" Er yes, I do tend to delve into my own psyche a lot. I guess I follow that old maxim "Know thyself".

Cheerful Monk said...

For me it's not about hiding anything, it's that most people aren't that interested in understanding other people. I do like to understand people so was a good listener for years. I decided to back off some after this experience. As Heron and Rachael said, just because a person likes to use you as a listening post doesn't mean they will return the favor.

Also, I take a more personal-growth approach to things. If something is bothering me I'm more interested in going deep and understanding what's going on and then develop a strategy for dealing with it. I think that's fascinating, but most people don't. To each his/her own.

Grannymar said...

I try to be a good listener and feel honoured when others confide their cares, woes and good times with me. Anything I am told stays locked away and never goes any further.

Dave Martin said...

I'll talk openly about personal stuff if it's with someone I'm comfortable with and know well, but otherwise I'll stick to the basics for fear of the other person edging towards the exit to get away.

Nick said...

Jean: I agree, listening can become counter-productive if it goes on too long and becomes one-sided. As you say, your own needs have to be considered somewhere along the line. And yes, going deep and understanding what's going on inside you is what's needed first of all.

Grannymar: I know from my own conversations with you that when you say it stays locked away, it does.

Nick said...

Dave: My approach entirely. If it's someone you hardly know, baring your soul is just foolish. But sometimes the other person gives the impression of being ready for anything and it's embarrassing when they turn out to be anything but.

carolyn said...

Just curious as to why you nearly always use women's pictures in your headings.
I enjoy your blog.

Carolyn

tammy j said...

I hope I'm a good listener. but I enjoy talking.
so it's probably a toss up!
I have friends who confide a lot of things... usually about their job.
and like grannymar. it goes no further. I can be trusted.
in tomorrow's post I could be accused of sharing way TMI
but it's one of my favorite memories and came to me the other evening while I was watching something on tv. I completely forgot to watch and got lost in the memory.
if i'd had a friend here we would have laughed together.
so instead I wrote a post about it.
I think blogs act like that in a way... a sounding post for us.
odd. but true!

Nick said...

Carolyn: A lot of people ask me that. There's one very personal reason that I'm not willing to go into here. But the more straightforward one is that women get overlooked so often in favour of men that I like to make a point of using female images. I'm glad you enjoy my blog - thanks for visiting!

Nick said...

Tammy: Now I'm all agog to see your next post! Yes, blogs are a bit of a sounding post, aren't they? I like writing about unexpected things and then waiting for all the equally unexpected reactions.

Ms Scarlet said...

I agree with Bijoux.
But, these days people can tell me absolutely anything... and I would have probably forgotten it by teatime!
Sx

Nick said...

Scarlet: You strike me as the sort of person people confide in. In which case Too Much Information is probably a regular occurrence. But I'm a bit like you when it comes to memory. I've had very intimate conversations with people and a few months later only the vaguest details remain.

Wisewebwoman said...

I think you've written before about this Nick? Maybe years ago. My life is an open book and I think because it is people share all kinds of things with me. Like recently, the elderly deacon at the local church stopped me on the road and we chatted and talked of grief (he knows I'm in grief counselling) and then told me how lonely he was a few years back when he lost the love of his life and he couldn't tell a soul. Then he pointed to his eyes, which were leaking tears, and said "I cry for him every day". He's a long married (to a woman) man and I was so honoured he had shared something that I had long suspected was his orientation. Goes to show.

XO
WWW

Nick said...

www: I have written about this before - several times in fact. How very sad that the deacon couldn't tell anyone about his lost partner. He must have felt so alone and desolate and there was no one to help. If only he could have been more open and not felt he had to hide his real self behind a respectable straight marriage.

Keith Smith said...

I am afraid that I adopt the old Prisoner of War tactic and say "I'm telling you nothing!"

Nick said...

Keith: But if they took you to Room 101....