Many of us deal with oversharing – either as recipients of overly personal information, or as targets, resisting the pressure to self-disclose.
Especially if you’re introverted, sensitive, or a good listener, you’ve probably felt trapped by one of these people – an oversharer.
Here is a list of oversharing scenarios, and things you can do to handle oversharers of all kinds.
Sometimes people share too much in an effort to cultivate a certain image. They will get way too personal, way too fast, sharing private details of their unusual preferences, their sex life, or other topics usually reserved for intimate relationships.
This oversharer wants their ‘dirt’ out in the open. They want to appear edgy.
The provocateur shares for the sake of sharing – they want their ‘dirt’ out in the open. They want to appear edgy. They may even take pleasure in seeing others’ looks of shock or discomfort when presented with overly personal information.
Deal with a provocateur by politely acknowledging what they say, but declining to engage with it. Refrain from expressing surprise, as that fuels their oversharing. But do calmly change the topic to something more appropriate for how well you know each other.
Insist that your friend answers just as many questions as you do.
This person wants to know just for knowing’s sake. They ask a million questions, coupled with a million follow-ups, and they hang on every potentially-juicy tidbit you give them.
Fight the pressure to overshare by giving bland answers (a version of the grey-rock technique), or by asking questions in return.
If they deflect and bring the conversation back to you, insist that your friend answers just as many questions as you do. Set a boundary that your interactions should include a give and take.
This person overshares as a means of locking in a relationship. By getting very personal, very fast, they attempt to reverse-engineer friendship.
They tell you too much about their past and their struggles (such as their entire childhood story, or all their emotional issues), which increases the chance you will want to be there for them.
By getting very personal, very fast, they attempt to reverse-engineer friendship.
You might find yourself thinking, “Wow, this person has nobody else to rely on.” Luckily, that’s never true, and it’s not your burden.
Fight your guilt and get a little distance from this person by pointing them to another outlet for their deepest woes. The internet abounds with resources for people with nobody to talk to.
Explore and find one you can get behind (maybe Supportiv!), then suggest to your new friend that it could help.
This person has to know how they stack up against those around them. What better way to do so, than to draw everyone’s dirt out into the open?
They attempt to build a quantifiable picture of who you are.
By eliciting personal details and private stories from you, they attempt to build a quantifiable picture of who you are, usually with the goal of negatively comparing you to themselves.
This accounting behavior isn’t always intentional, so there’s no need to be mean to an accounting oversharer. However, you have no obligation to share, and you can simply tell the person you’re not comfortable discussing what they bring up.
In the end, all these strategies come back to one thing: setting and maintaining firm boundaries based on what you’re comfortable with.
Setting boundaries works a lot better than ignoring the person, being mean, or tolerating uncomfortable oversharing until you hit your breaking point.
If your boundaries continue to be violated, then you have a right to be angry — and while you may not be able to stop the oversharing behavior, you’ll know you did all your could.
As a last resort, don’t bottle up your emotions. You can let it out to friends, your therapist, or even online in an anonymous chat. But it’s always better out than in.
Hold your ground and keep calm – you got this!