You know all about her divorce, her husband’s infidelity, her children’s behavioral problems and all of her sister’s personal problems. Nope, she’s not your best friend – she’s just the woman sitting next to you on the train. On this episode of “I Want to Like You,” Dr. Gwendolyn Seidman, Ph.D., associate professor of Psychology at Albright College, and Pamela Eyring, president and owner of Protocol School of Washington join Real Simple editor and host Kristin Van Ogtrop to talk about oversharers. Here they share three ways to understand and handle those who like to air their dirty laundry:
Assess the situation. Is this just a “strangers on the train” phenomenon? Does the person think divulging secrets is acceptable because they don’t expect to see you ever again? You might be able to simply say that you’re not interested. But is it an acquaintance? They might be using the subway ride to foster a bond. "It could be that friends don’t approve of the divorce so she can’t talk about it freely,” Seidman says. “Maybe she feels like this is a chance to just get it out.”
Be sympathetic. Besides needing to talk it out, some want a fresh view on a complicated situation. Eyring finds this common among women. “We’re very good networkers,” she says. “We tend to share a little bit more because we’re looking for solutions and resources.”
Set boundaries. Both experts agree it isn’t a problem unless the listener is uncomfortable. But if you simply were looking for alone time, you don’t want to come off as cold and insensitive. “Maybe there are times when someone needs to talk something out,” Eyring says. “At least be a listener.” But if she’s sharing inappropriate details about her sex life? Stop it before it makes you upset with the person.
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