Right now is the best time to be living in society — a time where people can start to speak up against issues like abuse, toxic relationships, sexual harassment, discrimination, and gender inequality, to name a few. This time that allows for more personal expression has created a place where traditionally marginalized groups can speak out. Victims of abuse are now confronting their abusers.
Mental health and substance use disorders are more understood. This freedom of speaking what is in your heart can be extremely helpful and beneficial. It can also lead to some intricate situations that leave you questioning how much you should reveal about yourself and how knowing about someone else’s personal life can change your perspective about them.
For most of us keeping a wall up around parts of ourselves, we don’t want anyone to look at is pretty common. It is a way to protect ourselves and shield ourselves from possible “harm”. This is also a form of trying to create boundaries.
Some of us are more hyper-aware about raising those boundaries than others, which can also lead to discomfort and conflict because it is harder to keep others’ revelations out than it is to keep our own within ourselves. When we think of the word boundary, we immediately go to a self-oriented concept like this is “my” boundary. What’s also important to look at there is what you’re willing to let in as well.
In many healthy relationships — romantic or friendships — we gauge people’s boundaries by making progress in the trust arena. Like when you first open up about something that may be uncomfortable to talk about. If the other person listening doesn’t engage or say anything back, chances are, you would stop right there and not open up further. This “progress” can be hindered when the openness isn’t reciprocated. It can feel as if you are not safe with that person.
The problem also lies in the fact that we like telling others about ourselves. The Illinois State University conducted research where they put previously unacquainted participants together and instructed them to ask each other questions. In one group, people took turns and one person would speak for about ten minutes while the other person listened. Then they would switch roles. In the second group, individuals engaged in a reciprocal back and forth, responding to each other in the moment. In the reciprocal version, the subjects liked each other a lot more.
When we start to get to know a person we find that what we are enjoying about it the most is when our idea of self-disclosure feels balanced. They are sharing with us as much or around as much as we are sharing with them. When someone goes on about themselves non stop it can be off-putting. On the other hand when someone won’t talk about themselves at all, it can lead our thinking to question why they are reluctant to be open with us.
Another negative encounter can occur when you are on a first date with someone new and they grill you with very personal questions about your life. This may even make you feel uncomfortable. People who score high in the personality trait of agreeableness are particularly susceptible to this type of boundary blindsiding. They are more likely to accept someone who overshares and reciprocates that response because they do not like conflict or don’t like the other person to feel in the wrong.
For people who have a hard time with this concept, it may be helpful to practice being a bit disagreeable. Allow those moments of awkward silence to linger. Decline to answer anything that may feel like a prying question. This is important because it does protect your privacy, but it enables you to get some important information about other people.
“If their reaction is not particularly kind, that will teach you that this person may not be someone you can engage in tricky conversations with. If they sit there and validate what you are feeling or apologize, that means they are more willing to hear you out than to argue. In this manner, you are more likely to trust them.
For example, friends who are interested in gossiping all the time or who ask you intimate, personal questions. It is best in the moments of discomfort to just say you don’t want to talk about it because it is not your thing. Saying it that way allows for others to understand that there is no shame or blame, just you don’t like talking about other people. If you apologize instead, it makes it awkward rather than being direct and bringing confidence into the picture.
Another example can be if you are friends with people who at one point had a friendship or were in a romantic relationship and are not at odds. They may constantly bring the other up and feel like they have to unload all of this onto you because you understand.
It is important to say that you care about them deeply, however, you don’t want to be involved in hearing it any longer. When you say it in a certain way, it can be very beneficial for not only your well-being, but the other person’s, as well.
If you find yourself in relationships that are abusive or find that you are repeating negative and unhealthy behavior patterns, Avalon Malibu can help you. We offer a variety of therapy options that can help you become aware of these patterns and break the cycle. If you or someone you love needs help, call us today at (844)-857-5992.