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How Do You Balance Between Emotional Transparency and Oversharing?

by Janessa Tan. |

Before we jump straight into the topic at hand, let’s first address a few terms.

What is Emotional Transparency? 

Emotional transparency is communicating your feelings in a way that is authentic and genuine. You relate to others through unfabricated versions of your experiences, even if it means exposing your fears and vulnerabilities. 

Why should we be Emotionally Transparent?

When our true emotions are communicated effectively, we potentially relieve a lot of accumulated tension or resentments within a relationship. However, many of us struggle to be emotionally transparent. We habitually hide our feelings because we want to uphold an image and/or we fear the uncertainty of others’ reactions. It takes a lot of courage to own up to our truths and to face our vulnerabilities, but having those hard conversations are crucial if we want our feelings and needs to be acknowledged.

The Transparency Paradox

Our world today is hyper-connected and social media dominated. Truths and realities are the most exposed than they have ever been; but why is it that we share so much, yet our relationships still struggle with being transparent and honest?

The key reason to this paradox is that our interactions have become increasingly transactional and demanding. The result of this is that we have descended into surface-friendly but emotionally distant relationships. We constantly update our feelings on social media but never really direct it to the specific person. More so, we expect somebody to just come along to comfort us, and when our needs of comfort and resolution aren’t met, we self-indulge in rumination and disconnection.

So how do we practice effective emotional transparency instead of ineffective oversharing?

1. Self-Reflect

Oftentimes when we’re caught up with overwhelming emotions, we may have the tendency to splurge everything we’re feeling to the person in closest proximity (or conveniently share it on social media). Talking to someone about how we feel is no doubt a beneficial way of coping with difficult emotions. However, we tend to exaggerate situations or misinterpret things when we are in the thick of our feelings. 

Engaging in a moment of self-reflection before pouring our feelings is a great way to put things into perspective. Taking a step back from tough situations allows space for insight and helps us to tune in to our emotional intelligence. 

Once we’ve assessed the situation and brought awareness to our feelings, we will be able to share it more rationally and also become more mindful of whom to share it with. 

Here are a few self-reflection prompts that can bring you more mental and emotional clarity:

  • What emotion am I experiencing? What was the situation that led up to it? 

  • How did this situation hold me back?

  • I know I’m in a tough place, but what can I learn from this event?

  • Who are the top three people whom I can trust and can help me through this situation?

2. Find the Right Timing

Although sharing heavy emotions like anger and stress immediately seems like the most efficient way, it’s actually counterproductive and may lead to backfiring effects. Example situations include confronting a spouse with children around or sharing an angry post on social media immediately after an argument with your boss. Pouring your work stresses in the middle of a wedding or a birthday party is definitely not the way to go either.

After engaging in the self-reflection exercise as mentioned above, we need to be smart about when to express those feelings. If finding the right time feels difficult, we can try creating opportunities for productive conversation. Simply asking, “I have something I would like to speak about with you. Is now a good time?” will help ensure whether or not the other person is ready to listen and receive what you have to say. 

3. Be Honest, Be Specific and Be Considerate

Once again, the self-reflection exercise can help you practice being true to your feelings. By giving your emotions words of description, you can then communicate them more accurately and constructively to others. 

Once we’re honest to our emotions, we oftentimes find there is an unfulfilled need we are trying to express. For example, when a roommate leaves their dishes unwashed at the sink, our feelings of annoyance will instinctively label them as a “bad roommate”. Self-reflection allows us to re-evaluate the situation and helps us communicate specific personal needs without the labelling and judgement. A response to the example above would be, “I understand you’re busy with work, but I hope we could do our parts in keeping the house clean and hence I am slightly upset you left the dishes unwashed.” 

So, instead of oversharing unproductive judgements and blame, let’s be honest and specific to find better methods of resolution.

4. Reciprocal Communication 

Communicating feelings and being transparent is a two-way street. We should be mindful that others’ have feelings too. Instead of purely splurging our own feelings, it is just as important to actively listen to others’ needs. Only by reciprocal communication can we find that common ground to reach a mutual understanding.

Reciprocal communication also means being open to others’ advice and opinions. If everyone within a discussion is being truly honest with their feelings, we have to be open to the fact that there is a chance their emotions and thoughts do not parallel with ours. Although disagreements are inevitable, they may sometimes lead to positive outcomes. Having different opinions with both parties holding an open-mind can help everyone to evaluate the situation from an out-of-the-box perspective. 

Hence, reciprocal communication is crucial in preventing one-sided oversharing and helps generate more productive outcomes. 

To conclude, the difference between being authentic and oversharing goes back to our intentions. Shallow oversharing often stems from a misguided attempt to gain sympathy. Whereas emotional transparency, along with effective communication, stems from the attempt to solve problems.

So, before you share your most personal feelings, self-reflect on your intentions and be mindful of the potential consequences. Remember, we can be authentic and still maintain our sense of privacy.

You can also learn more about the writer on Instagram.

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