Dear Rhonda and Dr. Cheri,
A co-worker flies into our break room to tell anyone who’ll listen her latest horror story about a boyfriend.
She blurts out unbelievable amounts of personal information that would embarrass anyone. She goes into details about her underwear, her outfit, and her dates. It’s obscene.
I made the mistake of telling her about my divorce. She took that as a sign that we are now intimate buddies. Other people I know have heard her talking about what I said to her in private.
I have a reputation for being a level-headed professional and keeping my private life … private.
This oversharing person has zero boundaries. She talks about her operations in detail, her bodily function problems, and shows pictures of people while talking about their deep, dark secrets.
I’ve hinted to her to stop talking and I’ve run into my office and closed the door. Sometimes she walks right in when she knows I don’t want her barging in.
I like my job, but I’m about to go somewhere else just to stop this person and her problems.
Not sharing ever again
Dear Not Sharing,
It’s not wise to leave a job because someone has the problem of oversharing. There are many people with this “disorder” and we need to demand boundaries, as nicely as possible.
Don’t beat yourself up over telling her too much. Most people who have become accustomed to the common-sense tactic of not divulging too much personal information, especially at work, have learned the hard way, that our culture has jumped over many appropriate boundaries. Boundaries help us to behave with dignity.
There are many reasons people overshare, such as:
1 – People want intimacy and closeness because we’ve become a society detached from humanity. Some people who are needy, abused, or lonely try to create bonds by sharing secrets, dramatic details and shocking stories.
2 – Some people choose this behavior to get through the anxiety phase of creating new relationships and try to force closeness.
3 – Some people intentionally overshare to try to get other unsuspecting and caring people to overshare, also.
4 – Our society has allowed boundaries to be loosened for entertainment, comedy, or embarrassing “gotcha” moments.
It’s normal for you to care and try to make someone feel comfortable by returning an intimate story. Be blunt, but considerate, to the oversharing person and say, “You may not share my information with anyone – anymore because it’s disrespectful. I expect you to be professional in our office.” Then change the subject.
But be kind. Many oversharers have had trauma or psychological issues and need someone to care about them. It could be you.
Rhonda and Dr. Cheri