Understanding when it’s safe and appropriate to share how you are feeling

Have you ever been in a situation where you have asked someone how they are and rather than getting the simple answer you were perhaps expecting you received what can only be described as their life story? I’m sure we can all think of an “over-sharer” in our lives and, whilst I am a strong believer that to answer with “I’m fine thanks” when you are not really fine, is a sign of incongruence, too much information that we are not expecting or equipped
to deal with can be draining and, in certain situations, triggering or traumatic.

So how can we be authentic when we are sharing our feelings and, most importantly, how can we make sure that we are only sharing with people that are happy and able to receive it?

The first thing to take into consideration when deciding whether a person is “safe” to share with, is your relationship with that person and how you think they will perceive or use that information. If you are in a social situation with a person that you know to be a little untrustworthy when it comes to keeping things to themselves, you may wish to share some information but not all. A simple “I’m working through a few challenges at the moment so feeling a little under the weather” is still an authentic answer but you are making the choice not to share too much and risk them telling someone else about your problems (aka “gossiping”).

Another situation where it may not be safe to go into too much detail is if your problems could negatively affect someone else. An example of this could be a parent complaining to their child about the child’s other parent. While it is true that they may have reason to feel that way about this person, the child may struggle with the weight of the information provided, especially if they have a good relationship with the other parent themselves. In this instance, just because you feel the need to get something off your chest, doesn’t
necessarily mean that it feels ok for the other person. However, you may feel that the other person should be aware of certain things that are going on for you but, if so, you need to ensure that the information is delivered in such a way that it’s for their best interests and can help them move forwards.

A relationship where it is generally always safe to share exactly what is on your mind is that of a patient to a therapist or a coach.

In times of difficulty, friends and family may be fine to offload to in small doses, but it’s always worth considering what they are going through in their own lives and if they are mentally equipped to receive the information you are sharing with them.

If they are going through a hard time themselves or if they have no way of processing what you have told them, it may be harmful to share with them at that time. However, it is the therapist’s job to listen to whatever may come up for you in a session and therefore they are trained and supported to deal with whatever that may bring up for them outside of your sessions.

There will be times when it is unclear whether it is safe to share certain information within social settings and this is when it is useful to be able to go into your body and see how that makes you feel physically. If, when connecting to your feelings around sharing the information with certain people, you get a feeling of tension or a “drop of the stomach” (for example) this may be a sign that you are not comfortable with that person/group of people having access to that information.  If you are unsure about how to connect with your feelings
in this way then you may find my blog “Listen to Your Body” useful.

Another thing to consider when sharing information with someone is what you want them to do with it? Are you looking for someone who can give you advice on how to deal with something, do you want someone to validate how you are feeling or do you simply want someone to listen and sit with you while you process? Understanding why you feel the need to talk in depth about how you are feeling can be helpful in knowing who is appropriate to share with and how much detail you go into.

Being truly authentic is about being connected to our feelings and allowing ourselves to feel them rather than shutting down or denying the ones that may be perceived as negative, such as sadness, anger or vulnerability.

I share more about what it means to be authentic here but it’s worth noting that you can be authentic while still being guarded about how you share
information. I remember an occasion where I went to meet with someone for a work situation and naturally when I first arrived I asked her how she was. Her answer was something along the lines of “I am having a tough time at the moment as we had to have our dog put to sleep yesterday, but let’s get on with the job in hand.” This felt very authentic to me as she didn’t deny her feelings or try to tell me she was “fine, thank you”. Instead, she shared a little bit of honest information but then moved on without feeling the need to go into any more details or give me chapter and verse about the poor dog’s condition. This is a really good example of how to remain authentic and connected to your
feelings without oversharing when it’s not appropriate to.

Sharing authentically is an important part of living a fulfilled life and so it is something that we work on in my coaching sessions and workshops. If anything in this blog has resonated with you and you would like to learn more about how I can help you in this way please reach
out by emailing rosie@rosiewithey.co.uk

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