Are You Too Personal When
Talking to Strangers?

Boring Conversation

Some of us are very friendly.  Others of us are very chatty.  Falling into either of these groups can place you in dangerous territory when you meet someone and find yourself doing most of the talking.  This is when you easily cross the boundary into "too personal."

Have you ever attended a party you were a little nervous about because you didn't know many people?  That nervousness, along with a desire to make a good impression, may have made you a bit overly chatty with some of your new acquaintances.  You even noticed it yourself when someone you were speaking with began darting her eyes around to find an excuse to leave your conversation.

Wouldn’t it be grand to have an inner self on the other side of your actual self, mirroring back as you talk to another person?  Or sitting on your shoulder ready to tap you into full notice that you’d crossed into too friendly or overly personal zone when speaking to someone you've just met?

Avoid Getting Too Personal

It's difficult to catch yourself getting too personal until you're already there.  Setting a few rules before you leave your home keeps you focused on what you should and should not share.

Consider avoiding:

  • Overly personal anecdotes or long stories about yourself
  • Negative or disturbing news stories or current political speculations which commit you to telling more about yourself than you would if you'd thought about it ahead of time
  • Unpleasant topics or horror stories
  • Gossip

In other words, avoid topics that may cause you to forget how long you're holding the conversation.  Remember, you're speaking with a stranger or someone you've just met.  There's no need to launch into a monologue or tell-all.

Good Conversation Habits

The best way to set aside the bad habit of talking too much or getting too personal is to form positive conversation habits.  The ultimate goal within any conversation is to connect with another person through communication.  Use this as your guide when in contact with someone.

  • Listen and Take Turns Talking.  Listening is one way of waiting your turn.  People who share too much personal information generally aren’t listening or being mindful that the other person needs a turn to speak.  Besides, everyone loves an opportunity to be heard. 
  • Be prepared.  Why are you where you are?  What’s your purpose for being there?
  • Always aim to leave on a positive note, whether it’s accomplishing the goal of mingling and meeting others or getting to another event on time.  Gatherings are about mingling, so others will be happy you helped them move on, too.
  • Assume rapport.   Remind yourself before you go anywhere that you are a person worth knowing.  As such, you’re friendly and interested in others.
  • Don’t be demanding of others by asking them questions that are too personal.  They may reciprocate with a question that requires you to share too much.

Create Your Own Boundary

Meeting new people can be intimidating.  And being friendly in public situations where you may overshare with a stranger can compromise your safety. 

Creating boundaries for the type of information you share with others, in addition to the guidelines above, can make you more comfortable about speaking with people you don't know.  Make a conscious decision not to share personal details such as your address, your pet's name, or the type of car you drive.  Think ahead before you give too much away.

Always keep in mind that when you meet someone, that person is not your new best friend.  Friendship is built over time through conscious sharing and proven trust.  Your personal boundaries around the type of information you share will help you pace yourself with new people as you build your talent of being a terrific conversationalist.

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