When Khushboo Malhotra, a 25-year-old freelance journalist and marketer, went on a first date with a colleague a couple of years ago, she felt overwhelmed—not only by his oversharing, but by what she ended up sharing, too.
“I casually asked about him, and he launched into details of his past relationships that I found so uncomfortable to listen to: disastrous trips, miscommunications, breakup issues, and even his sex life and engagement [to his] ex-girlfriend,” recalls Malhotra.
After talking a lot about himself, he pressured the typically private Malhotra into reciprocating by divulging more than she wished to share. “He charmed…and guilt-tripped me to the point [of making me] talk about my past relationships,” she says. “I think it was my mental turmoil and my ex’s continued attempts to patch things up…[that made] me break down and confide in him, which I never intended or wanted to do.”
If you’re also prone to oversharing on dates, you’re not alone: Many others have tweeted about doing the exact same thing. To help, we asked licensed psychologist Kruti Patel, Ph.D., to weigh in on why this happens and how to be more mindful of it.
Are you actually oversharing?
Knowing the signs of oversharing is a crucial first step to acknowledging and changing the behavior. First, assess your relationship and how much you know about each other. Do you feel a sense of imbalance?
“If you feel like everyone knows a lot more about you than you know about them,” says Patel, it may be because you’re oversharing.
Another possible reason for oversharing is that you feel awkward during silences. Take note of how you feel when conversation lulls—are you inwardly scrambling to fill in the space? “Even if you’re not breaking the silence with personal information, you could be [over]sharing if the context doesn’t warrant you sharing anything at all,” Patel adds.
Lastly, think about whether you’re prone to pushing beyond appropriate conversational boundaries as a form of catharsis. “Are you expecting your loved one to treat your venting as a therapy session?” Patel says. “A good [date] is just that …They are not your therapist.”
The surprising reason you may be oversharing: stress
If those signs felt a little too relatable, a potential reason could be that stress is leaving you less capable of self-management. This phenomenon is known as “self-control depletion,” according to a 2015 study in the Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology.
“[Self-control depletion] occurs when you expend your mental resources managing one behavior, which leaves less power to monitor other behaviors,” says Patel. “When we are not stressed, it’s easier to manage emotions and impulses. If you’re stressed, experiencing setbacks, grieving, or overwhelmed, that will make you more likely to overshare.”
And during a global pandemic, it’s understandable that you may feel especially exhausted from all those challenges popping up.
Are you putting on your vulnerability armor?
Another reason you may feel tempted to overshare is that you’re craving vulnerable and meaningful connections with people. But if you’re not especially mindful of your intentions, they may morph into something less healthy.
In her book Daring Greatly, shame researcher Brene Brown discusses “vulnerability armor,” which is when people use vulnerability to get something they want. In these instances, you may overshare to gain sympathy, to fast-track a relationship, or to influence how others feel about you.
Be mindful of this and your intentions while oversharing. It can help you figure out what your actual needs are.
How mindfulness can help
Oversharing, which you’re more likely to do as you age, can make you (or even your date) feel self-conscious and uncomfortable. You may not always remember doing it, either, according to a 2021 Penn State study. So how can you note your tendency to overshare before actually doing it?
First, give yourself a time limit in order to create a more natural conversation flow. “Talk for a few minutes—[like] the time it takes to take a few bites or sips of a drink—then ask the other person a question,” Patel suggests. Having some ideas of questions you want to ask them ahead of time can also help.
Another idea Patel recommends is practicing the art of the pause. “Before sharing, pause and ask yourself a question: ‘Is this something I really need to share with this person right now?’” she says. You may realize the information you want to disclose is something you could discuss on another date, when you’re closer to the person and trust them more.
And if you slip up? That’s okay! Address it afterward, then move on. “Once you start recognizing you’re oversharing, you can always stop and acknowledge it in the conversation, [saying]. ‘Oh wow, I have no idea why I blurted that out. Sorry,’” Patel says.
How to leave oversharing in the past
If you notice oversharing is a challenge that comes up for you repeatedly, consider additional resources, such as related books and therapy. Patel suggests reading The Fine Art of Small Talk by Debra Fine and/or seeing a therapist: “Therapy can be a good place to process if there are any underlying reasons or events that are leading you to overshare.”
And don’t forget about the importance of self-love. “We all can overshare from time to time,” Patel says. “Practice some self-compassion.” You can do this in a variety of ways: talking to yourself like you’d talk to a friend, reframing your critical self-talk to be more understanding, and more.
While realizing you just overshared isn’t so fun, it’s understandable and normal. Be gentle with yourself, be mindful of your intentions and actions, and give yourself some grace.
Craving true connection? If you’re ready to date like a human again, sign up for early access to the forthcoming Keepler dating app here.