Cue music…I’m going to let it all hang out, I’m going the Full Monty! Oh settle down, I’m not that sort of girl, but I did get your attention, didn’t I? Unfortunately, most of us have people in our lives who don’t warn us before letting it all hang out, albeit in a different sort of way. What in the world am I talking about? Let me tell you…
I am talking about people unexpectedly baring their souls–blurting out their deepest secrets, sharing intimate details of relationships, health or financial issues, confessing illegal or immoral acts–those sort of breath-catching disclosures. Because I have been blindsided by these sort of discussions–which really are less discussions and more confessionals—I want to address both sides of the issue.
First of all, if you are enduring a situation that weighs on your heart and mind, moment by moment, seek professional help. I say this with sincerity. Your friends and family are (or should be) your support system, here to supplement, but not substitute for professional assistance.
For all other deep, dark, soul searing secrets you feel compelled to share: Please, for the love of God, ASK PERMISSION before you strip bare–you know I mean figuratively, not literally! I am appalled at how readily people open the valve and dump their &@#* on friends, family and casual acquaintances without warning. It seems common etiquette has vanished and in its place, a belief that full-disclosure in all things is both necessary and appropriate. It isn’t.
Before you expose yourself (again figuratively) to someone, ask yourself two questions: Why is it necessary you share this information at this time and what impact will receiving this information have on the recipient? Chances are, your desire to share is based on your own needs (bonding, approval, sympathy, advice, etc) and while it may lighten your load, you will be burdening someone else, without their permission! Even if that isn’t your intention, once you have spilled the beans, you cannot take back what has been spilled. I believe in strong friendships with meaningful, candid conversation, but candid doesn’t mean shocking! If you must share something, do so for the right reasons and in the right way. Make sure your friendship/relationship is on very strong footing, offer a morsel or two of information and if you are asked for more information, this is your opportunity to explain you have something of importance to discuss–if there is no interest in the topic, do not proceed! If you do get a “go ahead” signal, ask permission to share, then frame the information with your expectations, i.e. “I don’t expect your approval…” or “I am not looking for advice, I just need to share with someone…” and make sure you give the recipient permission to cut the conversation short if he/she becomes uncomfortable. I know, I have a lot of rules.
Now, if you are the unfortunate recipient of a Full Monty information disclosure, I have a few thoughts that might be helpful. The first and most important thing is to know that you have a right to stop an unsolicited disclosure at any time! Your friendship and/or being a family member does not give another open access to your emotional space; you have your own concerns, and reserving emotional space and energy for dealing with those first and foremost is a necessity.
If you do allow the information in, remember that you are not charged with finding a solution, offering unbiased approval or providing 24/7 support. Sometimes, creating and maintaining strong boundaries can be tough and can require blunt conversation (sometimes repeatedly). Don’t be afraid to tell the sharer that you are finding their information burdensome, that your support of them is draining, or that while you will remain their friend, you do not like the situation and do not feel comfortable discussing it. Put on your big girl pants–and while you’re at it, tell your friend they need to keep some things under wraps!
Back to the music…Baby, take off your coat, real slow. Baby, take off your shoes. I’ll help you take off your shoes. Baby, take off your dress. Yes, yes, yes. You can leave your hat on. You can leave your hat on…
That’s all for now!
The Yellow Kite