If you’ve ever found yourself telling a stranger personal details from your life or monologuing to a new colleague about family drama, you were likely oversharing.
It’s so easy to do.
If you find yourself regularly oversharing and want to change your ways, there is hope. Before we get to the tips, let’s define what oversharing is.
What is Oversharing?
Oversharing is when you say more than is appropriate in a given situation or to a specific person. You can overshare in-person or via email, social media, or text message.
Often, what you say becomes oversharing when you don’t have a deep enough connection with someone. Or you are opening up in an uncomfortable or unsafe space.
This means that oversharing typically has less to do with what you say and more about when, why, and to whom you say it.
Why Do People Overshare?
There are lots of reasons people overshare. They may be desiring to build intimacy quickly, avoiding silence, or they may be unaware that they’re oversharing.
There are so many reasons people find themselves oversharing! Let’s take a look at some of the main ones.
Trying to fast-track the relationship
A common reason for oversharing is the desire to build depth and emotional intimacy before the relationship is ready. This can often be connected to stress or a fear of not being liked by the person.
First dates, new coworkers, or mutual friends often elicit this oversharing. Oversharing is a way to try to rush intimacy with someone you feel like you “should” be close with. In these instances, it may also be a way to build depth when you’re experiencing loneliness.
Different relationships will naturally progress at different speeds. However, most relationships take time to deepen. Combat the tendency to overshare. Relationships take time to build depth and intimacy.
Feeling a false sense of closeness
What do nail artists, hair stylists, and Uber drivers have in common? They’re someone you share intimate space with, regardless of how well you know them. This can create a false sense of intimacy.
When someone is in your personal space, whether they’re styling your hair or painting your nails, it can be easy to feel it is acceptable to share a lot with them.
Avoiding awkward silence
Some people hate awkward silence so much that they will do anything to avoid it—even oversharing. Considering that awkward silence triggers the fight-or-flight part of our brain, according to Ty Tashiro in his book, The Science of Why We’re Socially Awkward and Why That’s Awesome, that’s understandable. But it’s far from ideal.
Consider taking a vow of silence to help you overcome awkward silence oversharing—more on that in a moment!
Struggling to read social cues
Those who struggle to read social cues may not notice that the person they’re speaking with just started looking around more, laughing nervously, or crossing their arms—all subtle signs that they may feel uncomfortable.
People who struggle to read social cues may have a more challenging time realizing at the moment that they’re sharing too much personal information.
Having social anxiety
Those who struggle with social anxiety are typically more prone to oversharing. When you feel anxious around other people, it can easily lead to rambling. You might also start oversharing because of low self-confidence or the need to please people.
Once you realize you’re oversharing, you may attempt to overcorrect and end up apologizing profusely and feeling more anxious—a vicious loop.
Being raised by oversharers
If oversharing was the norm in your childhood household, you might not even realize that you’re doing it. It might feel like the most ordinary and natural thing to respond to your coworker’s, “How was your weekend?” with a 20-minute version detailing everything you did.
6 Tips to Stop Oversharing
It can be hard to notice that you’re oversharing at the moment—and if you think back on a conversation and realize you overshared, don’t be too hard on yourself! We’ve all been there.
But since oversharing makes building genuine and deep relationships harder, here are some ways you can work to overcome any natural tendency you may have to overshare.
#1 Ask questions
One of the quickest ways to stop oversharing is by asking questions and giving others room to talk about themselves. If you have difficulty doing that now, try preparing a conversation starter ahead of time.
The next time you meet someone and notice you’re about to start monologuing, ask them a question.
This will help you get to know them better and build relational rapport by showing the person you’re speaking with that you care about what they’re saying.
Pro Tip: Be cautious not to pressure someone else to share more than they’re ready to by asking them overly personal questions. Instead, you can start by asking opener questions.
An opener question shows genuine interest in something you already know about the person you’re speaking with.
For example, if you’re at a networking event, start by asking them about their work. Or, if you start chatting with someone at an airport, ask them where they’re traveling. As they mention different details of life, you can follow up and ask more about that.
They may say, “Oh, you know, it’s great to travel to conferences like this for work, but I miss my family.” Then, you can follow up with, “I agree, being gone from my husband and our two kids has been tough this week. Do you have any children?”
Now you’ve segued the conversation from professional to personal in a natural way. By agreeing with their statement, you’ve created a connection and then turned the conversation back to them to share about their family.
Your response was short and sweet. You shared a piece of information and then invited them back into the conversation.
#2 Slow down before you speak
Practice slowing down before you start speaking. Take a breath before answering a question or jumping into a story. Think to yourself, “Is what I’m about to share relevant, interesting, or helpful to the person I’m speaking with.”
Opening up can help build a relationship, but sharing more than is appropriate at that moment can hinder relationships. With this in mind, take a moment before you start talking to think if what you’re sharing is something that will strengthen the relationship.
Action Step: If someone asks you a question you don’t know the answer, it can be easy to start stalling for time by rambling. Instead of doing that, try saying, “That’s a great question. Let me think about my answer for a moment.”
Then, take a few seconds to formulate how you want to respond and what thoughts you feel comfortable sharing.
Bonus Action Step: If you feel you need a hard reset on talking too much, consider taking a vow of silence. This can help you practice being a better listener and help you recognize patterns of when you want to jump in and start chit-chatting away.
A vow of silence doesn’t have to be religious, either. In this TED talk, John Francis shares the story of his 17-year vow of silence to support the environment.
Where do you struggle the most with oversharing—is it online, with your friends, or at the office? Try committing to a one-week, one day, or even one afternoon vow of silence for that area of life.
For example, you may not be able to be silent at work, but you could decide to take a vow of silence from social media and text for one week.
Tell people that they can call you if they need to contact you.
After finishing, sit down and think through how it impacted you.
#3 Wait to hit “send.”
If you’re worried that you might be oversharing via text or email, set it aside for an hour and then re-read the message with a clear mind.
You may also want to send a screenshot of the message to a close friend and ask them if they think you’re oversharing.
Action Step: Try proofreading important communication in a new setting. For example, if you’re sitting at your office desk, move to a conference room and read the email out loud.
Or, if you’re writing from your couch, re-read the text later while waiting in line at your favorite coffee shop.
This change of scenery can help you read the communication with fresh eyes.
#4 Find your oversharing trigger
There are so many different reasons that people overshare. Which one do you resonate with the most? Do you overshare because that was a common way to communicate in your household growing up due to social anxiety or because you are trying to avoid silence?
Once you figure out what situations make you overshare the most often, it will be easier for you to avoid oversharing.
Pro Tip: If you’re having difficulty identifying your oversharing trigger, take a moment to think about the last time you remember oversharing. Ask yourself the following questions:
- Who was I with?
- How was I feeling emotionally?
- What time of day was it?
- Where was I?
- What happened right before I started oversharing?
As you think about your answers, consider whether any of them indicate a theme. Maybe you regularly overshare when you’re nervous or meeting new people.
The next time you’re near your “oversharing trigger,” become an active listener. Challenge yourself not to say anything about yourself unless directly asked.
Instead, engage with what is being said and ask questions based on what others have shared.
#5 Shift the conversation
If you feel the conversation leads to a topic you don’t want to share too much about, shift the conversation to something else.
You can do this using a little comedy or asking a question.
Pro Tip: Witty banter is a great way to lighten a conversation that is starting to get serious. One of the easiest (and safest) forms of bantering is to say something absurdly ridiculous.
For example, if someone asks you an awkward question, “How much did you pay for your house?” You could answer, “Oh, just a little more than my morning cup of coffee.”
Or, if a family member asks when you and your spouse plan to start having children, try responding with, “Definitely no sooner than nine months from today.”
Saying silly or obvious answers with a smile can help lighten the mood and keep the conversation from moving to a more severe and personal territory.
#6 Know why you’re sharing with the person in front of you
If you’re going through something challenging, whether a medical crisis or a hard breakup, you don’t owe anyone more information than you want to share. At the same time, life doesn’t happen in a vacuum, which means that there are people who will need to know to some degree what is happening.
Your boss, for example, doesn’t need to know all the details of your medical condition, but they may need to know that your ability to work may be impacted while you’re going to doctor appointments and feeling poorly.
When you’re telling them, keep in mind your why. Your employer likely only needs to know if there are any workplace accommodations you need and that you will keep them in the loop on any relevant information moving forward.
Pro Tip: Sometimes, people ask a question you don’t want to answer or may lead you to share more than you’re comfortable with.
When this happens, try using the phrase, “It’s a long story,” and then ask them something that helps redirect the conversation. Not everyone has to have access to the personal things you’re experiencing in life.
What is the Difference Between Authenticity and Oversharing?
Authenticity is honest and vulnerable; oversharing overwhelms someone who isn’t prepared with lots of personal information—or sharing more than you intended.
There can be a misconception that to be authentic. You must share intimate details with everyone who asks. But that isn’t always the case.
In her book Daring Greatly, Brenè Brown writes, “Using vulnerability is not the same thing as being vulnerable; it’s the opposite—it’s armor.”
Here are some examples of oversharing and authenticity:
1st Scenario: Jean and her partner decided to take a break after a year of dating. They both still care about one another but need to take a step back to determine if this is a relationship they want to continue investing in.
One week into the break, Jean bumps into an old high school friend at the grocery store. They used to be close but lost touch and haven’t seen one another in years. After chatting for a while, her friend asks if she’s currently seeing anyone.
|“I have no idea, honestly. I’ve been dating this great guy for a year, but he’s not quite as motivated as I want him to be. It feels like I’m always asking him to take the initiative. But he’s great at supporting me, which I really appreciate.We’re currently on a break, and I’m not sure at this point what I want. I want to be with him, but I also want him to take more initiative and be a higher achiever.”||“Thanks for asking. If I’m being honest, I’m in a bit of a complicated place right now with my partner. It’s been teaching me a lot about myself, which is super valuable! How about you? Are you seeing anyone right now?”|
Notice how in the second option, Jean was still transparent, but she didn’t fall into oversharing. She stuck with a few details and then returned the question to her friend.
2nd Scenario: Matt’s grandfather had a stroke, and Matt wants to visit him and help take him to a few doctor’s appointments.
Matt is a student with a research paper due that week and is trying to draft an email to ask for an extension on it. He’s not particularly close with this professor, but he’s trying to strike a balance between saying enough so that they understand and not oversharing.
|“Hi Professor, I just heard from my mom that her father had a stroke today. I’ve just booked a flight to visit him next week, so I can drive him to doctor’s appointments and spend some time with him. I was wondering if it would be possible for me to have an extension on the paper due next week? A lot of the research I was planning on referencing is in the library, and I’m not sure I’ll be able to write the paper since I’ll be out of town.”||“Hi Professor, I’m writing to ask if it would be possible to get an extension on the research paper due next week. I’m leaving town suddenly for some personal family reasons. Please let me know if you need more information to make your decision. Thank you for your consideration.”|
Notice that in the second email, Matt got straight to the point of why he’s emailing his professor. This demonstrated respect for his professor’s time. Matt also showed a willingness to share more with his professor if they needed to, without dumping all of his grandfather’s medical information on them out of the blue.
When Oversharing Turns Harmful
People can use oversharing as a form of fake vulnerability. It can be a way of trying to build intimacy without relational depth.
They can also use oversharing as a way to “test” how people will respond to something challenging or painful one has experienced. This testing is rarely a solid foundation for genuine connection.
For example, if you struggle with feeling unloved, you may tell a new acquaintance many personal details about your parents. This could be a way of “testing” how they will respond—will they “prove you right” and emotionally distance themselves from you, or will they “affirm” you and be frustrated with your parents?
Brene Brown likens oversharing to a floodlight. It’s overwhelming and leaves the listener blinking in the overpowering light.
Oversharing can also make others feel uncomfortable, which may lead them to avoid being around you. Once you say something, you can never take it back.
If you overshare via social media, you may damage your reputation and hurt professional opportunities. Many job recruiters and hiring managers will check prospective hires’ social media accounts at some point in the evaluation process. If you’re an oversharer, your social media accounts may reveal things about you that you’d instead an interviewer not know.
Oversharing can also very quickly devolve into gossip. Once you’re known as someone who gossips, people may be more reluctant to share aspects of their personal lives with you.
How to Tell You’re Oversharing
It can be hard to notice that you’re oversharing in real time, but some context cues can help you see and redirect before you’ve gone too far down the oversharing route.
One of the best ways to realize that you’re oversharing is by the reactions of those around you. Are people around you regularly showing signs of discomfort? Pay attention if they are fiddling their fingers, crossing their arms, or angling their body away as you talk. These signs can help you see that someone is feeling nervous or uncomfortable.
Here are some questions to ask yourself that might indicate a tendency to overshare:
- Do you hate small talk? If you really dislike small talk, you may feel like jumping into personal conversation topics quicker than is appropriate. While small talk can get tedious if you never move past it, learn to enjoy the little jokes and find things you have in common with someone else.
- Do you feel like you need to be understood by everyone? Most people want to feel understood, but you may be crossing boundaries and oversharing if you need your coworker to side with you in the argument you had with your spouse last weekend.
- Do you share lots of personal stories? Personal stories can be a great way to share a laugh with someone or let them see a glimpse of your personal life. You don’t want to stop sharing stories entirely, but knowing what stories are helpful and relevant for a given situation is good. Pay attention to if others are also sharing personal stories or if you’re the only one. That can be a helpful indicator of whether you’re oversharing.
- Are you always planning what you’ll say next? When you’re having a conversation, it can be easy to start planning your next story or comment in your head. The problem with this is that it doesn’t leave room to be a good listener. Practice being fully engaged in what the other person is saying so that you can ask good questions and respond to them well.
Pay attention to how you’re feeling and how others around you react to what you’re sharing.
Final Thoughts: Overcoming Oversharing
As you work to overcome oversharing, don’t expect to be able to change overnight. As with any area of personal development, there will be setbacks in the growth journey—have patience with yourself.
Here are some things you can do right now to help you build genuine relationships and stop oversharing:
- Ask Questions: When you’re having a conversation, listen with the intent to learn rather than planning your response. This will likely help you achieve depth quicker in your relationships than talking a lot will.
- Think before you speak: Before you share a story with someone, think about how it will benefit them to know the information you’re about to share. Then, tailor the story to be especially interesting to them.
- Figure out why you overshare: Keep a log of when you are most likely to overshare. This can help you find patterns, which can help you be on alert the next time you’re in a certain setting.
- Lighten the mood: If the conversation is getting serious, and you’re worried about oversharing, lighten the mood with a bit of banter or joke.
- Re-read written communication before sending: If you’re able, wait for a while between writing an email, social media post, or text message and sending it. This will allow you to re-read it with a clearer perspective before it goes to the recipient.
Noticing other people’s body language can be a great way to strengthen social skills and see when you start sharing too much personal information with someone. Check out the Ultimate Guide to Body Language articles to hone your people reading skills.