Tuesday, 15 January 2013

The trouble with talking to friends

Through my pregnancy, and my miscarriage, I relied heavily on a small group of close friends for ongoing support. While I was pregnant, I had mothers I could ask for advice and friends to share my excitement. After the miscarriage, they were still mothers I could ask for advice, but became friends who could share my pain. Not from knowing the pain themselves, but just caring enough to listen, offer a hug and tell me everything would be ok. But if you believe British philosopher Alain de Botton, "The problem with sharing one's crises with friends is you move on and they consider you a patient for eternity." 

I came across this story and read it with great interest given my recent experiences with sharing with friends. It made me question if I was an “over-sharer.” Apparently, an over-sharer is someone who is completely consumed by an event or situation in their life that is causing them confusion and anxiety. As a result, they tend to rely on particular friends to discuss these issues with – constantly!

I’m sure we’ve all been an over-sharer at some stage, but we’re more likely to remember being on the receiving end! When I think of times friends have “over-shared” with me, I know it  reaches a stage where you feel like they tell the same story over and over  again, meaning it takes a long time for them to resolve the problem. I know I’ve been guilty of sharing in the past, and my friends must have got so bored of me constantly prattling on, but eventually I figured it out and moved on

As an extrovert, I need to verbalise everything to get it all out of my head. And a lot of the times it works – your friend says something, or you say something, that suddenly clicks! The sad thing is the conversation may have been going around and around for several months, or years before that happens!

As the listener, you do reach a point where you just want to say “Would you get over this already, it’s so boring having this same conversation with you.” I know I’ve felt very frustrated because it becomes clear that nothing you can say is going to help the person. I’ve actually said “I’m sorry, I don’t have anything new to say to you about this.” I think that was my release valve as I felt so useless and upset that this person I loved was constantly putting themselves through so much pain.

In the article, psychologist Meredith Fuller says that eventually, the over sharer may want to stop seeing their friend because they can start to associate that person with their problem. However, I think the reverse is true too – I’ve stopped seeing friends because I just got sick and tiered of listening to the same thing! They were obsessing over a problem to such a degree that I reached the point where I didn’t enjoy spending time with them anymore because that’s all they could talk about. In the end, I felt like they were using me as a counsellor so had to leave for my own sanity.  

But fear not, help is at hand! If you are an over-sharer, you need to give your friends an “out”. Dr Fuller suggests saying ‘I know we have talked about this many times, but I really value your thoughts on this. Can I speak about it for 30 minutes and then we can do something you’d like to do.” Or: “I realise I keep bringing up these problems with you, please remind me of that next time I start talking about it.” I think these are good tips, but as the over-sharer, you have to be ok when the person says that’s your time done!

If you are the listener, you should be aware of your threshold and be honest about your ability to help problem solve. It is important to remember that the majority of us are not trained counsellors or psychologists so it can be better to suggest they speak to a professional rather than risk loosing a friendship. If we are true friends, there is no reason why we can’t say “I care about you but don’t feel I can help you anymore but I would like to help you find a professional person to talk to.”

Reading this article was a timely reminder of the pressure we can put on others when dealing with our own inner turmoil. There are times when we can be mindful of our impact on others, and other times when we are drowning so much we can barely breathe. If you’re lucky enough to have a few really close friends, you will know there are times you over-share, and times they over-share but you are just there for each other. In the end, as long as you have a friendship that can survive both of your difficult times, it doesn’t really matter. I am very lucky to have some of those kinds of friends!  

Image by Phaitoon
Courtesy of www.freedigitalphotos.net

No comments:

Post a Comment


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...