“So, how was your day?”
“Oh, well … God, I had an awful day. My dog might be dying.”
Yeah, I’m sure you’ve been there too: You’re talking to a friend, or perhaps not-so-much-a-friend, and as soon as you ask something typical like “How are you?” you get a huge dump of “overshare.” Martha Beck calls them emotional sluts.
Now, let me qualify some of what I’m about to say by noting that we should be able to depend on our friends for encouragement. It’s fine to be in a vulnerable place sometimes, spilling out all that’s wrong with the world with your best girlfriends over coffee (or, white wine works just as well). But, there’s a way of doing this without dragging them into your emotional rut.
Yes, sometimes your problems can be a complete mood killer, and what will distinguish whether you’re completely normal or you’re a big emotional slut depends on if you know when to keep things light. Imagine you’re having a wonderful time on the dance floor with some of your girls (or guys!) and a buzz starts amongst the group because one of you is in the bathroom crying about her horrible job and her even more horrible boyfriend. Uh, no no.
First, you put people in a very bad position when you do it. If you greet someone with “Yeah, my dog has cancer,” how do you expect people to react? The sympathy meter of most will go up, and they’ll start to search for something very comforting to say, for some way to help ease your anxiety if they give a damn. Hello? Awkward. You just killed my mood. And not only that, you’ve made me out to be some Mother Teresa who has something highly empathetic and profound to say about the aforementioned dying pooch that will just make everything all right. For the record, it usually doesn’t work that way. And now you’ve made me uncomfortable and I feel like a terrible friend because I can’t find the right words to say.
Second, it’s not necessary to share every detail of your life with everyone. The fact is, some people will spill their whole life story at the drop of a dime (or, in this case, at the mention of “How’s it going?”). Some will think I’m a tad trite, but really, it’s about simple social graces. If I’ve just met you, or I’m socializing with you at some event, I don’t really care to hear about all of your “issues,” and most others don’t either. We’re just too polite to tell you.
It’s not attractive to be an emotional slut, period. Stop telling all of your business in hopes that people will feel closer to you, or to make some connection (when you’re really, most likely, turning peole off), or to dump your emotions out on the unsuspecting. The next time someone asks how you’re doing, just say, “I’m okay,” or “I’m good!” Leave the rough stuff alone for another, more serious and intimate time.